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The imaginal experience that transforms Harcourt, Kathryn Anne 1986

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THE IMAGINAL EXPERIENCE THAT TRANSFORMS by KATHRYN ANNE HARCOURT B . A . , B . E d . , Univers i ty of Saskatchewan, 1975 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Counselling Psychology We accept th i s thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA January, 1986 © Kathryn Anne Harcourt, 1986 7 In presenting th i s thesis in p a r t i a l fulfi lment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the The Universi ty of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the Library s h a l l make i t freely avai lable for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of th i s thesis for scholar ly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his or her representatives. It i s understood that copying or publ icat ion of th i s thesis for f inanc ia l gain s h a l l not be allowed without my writ ten permission. Counselling Psychology The Univers i ty of B r i t i s h Columbia 2075 Wesbrook Place Vancouver, Canada V6T 1W5 Date: January, 1986 i i Abstract The v i v i d imaginal experience, as an instance of Maslow's (1968) peak-experience, was studied through the e x i s t e n t i a l -phenomenological method of research. Data were gathered through interviews and examined using a protocol analysis ( C o l a i z z i , 1978). The meaning of the experience was expl icated through a descr ip t ion of the major themes which comprised the experience. I t was found that the imaginal experience producing pos i t ive and l a s t i ng change involves a psychological process whereby the i n d i v i d u a l , whose focus i s drawn by a problem, attempts to f ind a so lu t i on . In the search, one withdraws, l e t s go of con t ro l , and achieves a state of openness, during which a v i s u a l , auditory or k ines thet ic experience occurs. After the experience, one feels resolved, changed, whole and integrated. One has a sense of having touched something higher in oneself and in the universe. The knowledge and perception gained from the experience draw one forward on a journey. One might experience d i f f i c u l t y as one's values change and at times seem in d i rec t c o n f l i c t with the values of soc ie ty . Nevertheless, one feels one cannot go back to where one was, and continues searching for "the more in l i f e . " i i i TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract i i Acknowledgements v i CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER I I : LITERATURE REVIEW 5 INTRODUCTION 5 PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACHES 7 Peak Experience 7 Flow Experience 15 Imaginal Experience 19 RELIGIOUS APPROACHES 24 C l a s s i c a l Mysticism 24 "Expanded" Mysticism 28 PSYCHIATRIC APPROACH 38 SUMMARY OF APPROACHES AND DISCUSSION 41 THE EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGICAL APPROACH 48 CHAPTER I I I : METHOD 53 CO-RESEARCHERS 53 Select ion of co-researchers 53 Demographic information 54 THE INTERVIEW 55 The f i r s t interview 56 The Second Interview 57 PROCEDURE 58 ANALYSIS OF PROTOCOLS 59 iv DESCRIBING THE EXPERIENCE 64 Exhaustive Descr ipt ion 64 Essen t ia l Structure 64 CHAPTER IV: RESULTS 66 A SUMMARY OF THE CO-RESEARCHERS' EXPERIENCES 66 THE INTERVIEWS 71 THE THEMES 75 Clusters of Themes 77 Descr ipt ion of the Themes 79 THE EXHAUSTIVE DESCRIPTION 139 The Context 139 The Descr ipt ion 140 THE ESSENTIAL STRUCTURE 151 The Context 151 The Structure • 151 CHAPTER V: DISCUSSION 156 STATEMENT OF FINDINGS 156 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY 158 THEORETICAL IMPLICATIONS 159 The Psychological Trad i t ion 159 The Rel ig ious Tradi t ion 162 The Coming Together of Two Tradi t ions 166 The Psych ia t r i c Trad i t ion 168 PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS 169 The Indiv idual 170 Psychotherapy 171 V Society 172 IMPLICATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH 174 SUMMARY 176 REFERENCES 178 APPENDIX: Protocols 181 v i Acknowledgements I would l i k e to thank two people who have made a difference in my l i f e , my advisor , Larry Cochran, and my husband, Jim Cruickshank. Their support and encouragement helped make th i s project a very specia l experience. 1 CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION There occur, in the lives of many individuals, seemingly spontaneous experiences that produce positive and lasting change, and give meaning to l i fe . For disciplines whose primary goal is helping people change, it is vital that this naturally occurring phenomenon be understood in detail. The development of a model for change based on such research into human experience would be invaluable to counsellors and therapists. As well, resources and analogues to counselling might be developed to aid and enhance the individual's growth process. While accounts of naturally occurring experiences are few, one of the most well-developed descriptions arises out of Maslow's (1968) study of peak-experience. Within the general range of experiences described by Maslow falls what has more recently been called the imaginal experience, but is known traditionally as the visionary experience. The focus of this study will be that experience. Throughout the study both terms will be used in referring to the experience, however judgment will be reserved as to their appropriateness. The imaginal experience occurs in the context of a l i fe situation. An individual struggling with a problem will find himself or 2 hersel f within a v i v i d experience of imagery which might be audi tory, v i s u a l , or kinesthet ic in nature and which resul ts in potent and l a s t i n g change. The importance of the imagination i s h ighl ighted in the work of 'Singer (1968, 1975, 1978), Starker (1982), and Watkins (1976). The experiencing of the imaginal i s seen as normal, healthy and necessary. Through the development of th i s imaginative capaci ty , i t i s believed one becomes a more fu l ly - func t ion ing human being. Greeley (1975) found v is ionary experience to be more common than previously r e a l i z e d . According to h is f indings , 36% of a l l Americans have had such an experience (p. 58). In a c a l l for further study he states, "It would be extremely important to study in tens ive ly the people who have . . . [these experiences], the nature and qua l i ty of the phenomena, and the impact the experiences have on a l l aspects of the i r l i v e s " (p. 8) . The research method of t r a d i t i o n a l s c i e n t i f i c psychology has followed a subject-object approach. To be studied, a subject must be quant i f iable and measurable. The world i s seen in terms of cause and effect and i s measured by what i s sensed through the f ive senses. The assumption of behavioural science i s that "observable actions are the only legi t imate data. As a r e su l t , inner experience has been reconci led to a s c i e n t i f i c no-man's land" (Csikszentmihalyi , 1975, p. x ) . It 3 becomes a p r o b l e m t o be s o l v e d o r managed , a s t r e s s t o be e l i m i n a t e d , o r an e m o t i o n t o be d e a l t w i t h , r a t h e r t h a n an a s p e c t o f human e x p e r i e n c e w i t h a m e a n i n g t o be e x p l o r e d and u n d e r s t o o d . I t i s i m p o r t a n t t o u n d e r s t a n d m e a n i n g , n o t t o m e a s u r e i t . " T h e c r u c i a l l o c u s o f p s y c h o l o g i c e v e n t s i s s t i l l t h e p s y c h e ; o u r t h o u g h t s and o u r f e e l i n g s , n o t ou r ' o b j e c t i v e ' b e h a v i o r g i v e m e a n i n g t o l i f e " ( C s i k s z e n t m i h a l y i , 1975, p . x ) . I t i s t h e r e f o r e i m p o r t a n t t o s t u d y e x p e r i e n c e as l i v e d r a t h e r t h a n i m m e d i a t e l y g o i n g t o c a u s e s and c o r r e l a t i o n s . I t i s t h e i n t e n t i o n o f t h i s s t u d y t o a d d r e s s t h e m e a n i n g o f t h e i m a g i n a l e x p e r i e n c e t h a t t r a n s f o r m s t h r o u g h u s i n g t h e e x i s t e n t i a l - p h e n o m e n o l o g i c a l me thod o f r e s e a r c h . In t h i s a p p r o a c h , r e s e a r c h i s c o n d u c t e d t h r o u g h d i a l o g u i n g w i t h o t h e r human b e i n g s c a l l e d c o - r e s e a r c h e r s , who a r e c o n s i d e r e d e x p e r t s on t h e i r i m a g i n a l e x p e r i e n c e s . T h r o u g h a d i s c i p l i n e d r e f l e c t i o n on t h e s e a c c o u n t s , t h e r e s e a r c h e r d i s c o v e r s t h e c o n s t a n t b e h i n d t h e v a r i e t y o f e x p e r i e n c e s . The r e s u l t s o f t h i s a n a l y s i s a r e s h a r e d w i t h t h e c o - r e s e a r c h e r s f o r v a l i d a t i o n a n d f u r t h e r c l a r i f i c a t i o n o f m e a n i n g ( G i o r g i , 1970; V a l l e & K i n g , 1 9 7 8 ) . The i m a g i n a l e x p e r i e n c e a p p e a r s t o h o l d a p o t e n t power t h a t i s a b l e t o t r a n s f o r m . A s t u d y o f t h i s n a t u r a l r e o r g a n i z a t i o n p r o c e s s m i g h t y i e l d an answer t o t h e q u e s t i o n s o f how p e o p l e c h a n g e and g row. What t h e n i s t h e m e a n i n g o f t h e n a t u r a l l y o c c u r r i n g i m a g i n a l e x p e r i e n c e ( a u d i t o r y , v i s u a l , 4 or k ines the t ic) which produces l a s t i ng change? The aim of t h i s study i s to provide a fundamental descr ip t ion of the experience which w i l l address th i s question of meaning. 5 CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW INTRODUCTION In th i s review, a var ie ty of studies which have attempted to iden t i fy s ign i f i can t features of the imaginal experience w i l l be considered. The purpose of the review i s to recount the descr ip t ive cha rac t e r i s t i c s that apply to th i s experience, as they have been expl icated by authors in the f i e l d . There appears in the l i t e r a t u r e to be three broad approaches taken to th i s phenomenon. The most recent, only decades o l d , i s in the f i e l d of psychology, where researchers are probing into the nature of human consciousness. Such experts as Maslow (1968), Singer (1968, 1974, 1975), and Csikszentmihalyi (1975) are report ing from the i r research that human beings have a higher nature, and within that nature, capac i t ies of imagination that take them beyond the realm of ordinary existence, where they experience a r e a l i t y that i s j o y f u l , l i b e r a t i n g and heal ing . T r a d i t i o n a l l y v is ionary experience has f a l l en into the domain of r e l i g i o n and i s equated with mysticism. Authors such as Underh i l l (1961), Zaehner (1957), and Stace (1960) describe a "Mystic Way" which i s followed by the mystic, and 6 leads to imageless union with the Absolute, or to entering the Void , depending on to which school , cul ture or r e l i g ious background the mystic belongs. "Vis ions" were lesser experiences the mystic might encounter along the way to a t t a in ing the Uni t ive L i f e . Since the turn of the century, " r e l i g ious" experience and "vis ionary" experience have been secular ized somewhat. The c l a s s i c a l d e f i n i t i o n of mysticism has been extended and cer ta in authors are recounting and theor iz ing about experiences occurring in the ordinary ind iv idua l which are unsought, and seem to occur spontaneously, that is without the t r a d i t i o n a l tools and d i s c i p l i n e s used by the mystics seeking out such experiences. James (1902) and Bucke (1901) were pioneers in recognizing these experiences, attempting to describe them, and theor iz ing about the nature of human consciousness. The t h i r d major approach to the v is ionary experience occurs in the f i e l d of psychiat ry . The world-view underlying The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, of the American Psych ia t r i c Associat ion i s that of the r a t iona l ob j ec t i v i t y of behavioural science. The key assumption i s that observable act ion provides the only legi t imate data. This world-view does not allow for the existence of phenomena which cannot be quant i f ied and empi r i ca l ly s tudied. The v is ionary experience i s therefore considered to be a psychotic ha l luc ina t ion in the sick mind of 7 one who i s unable to cope with the " rea l" world. PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACHES Peak Experience a) Background Maslow (1968) pioneered work in the development of a health psychology, a psychology of the f u l l y evolved and authentic se l f and i t s ways of being. He rejected the t r a d i t i o n a l d i s t i n c t i o n between sickness and health as far as surface symptoms were concerned, be l iev ing that health did not necessar i ly mean being symptom free, and that so -ca l l ed "personal i ty problems" might be loud protests against the crushing of one's in te rna l nature. In fact , according to Maslow, i t would be s ick not to protest , and since many do not, they pay for i t years l a te r with neurotic and psychosomatic symptoms and never become aware that they've missed out on true fu l f i l lmen t and happiness. Maslow (1968) bases th i s point of view on a number of assumptions. 1. We have each of us an e s sen t i a l , b i o l o g i c a l l y based inner nature, which i s to some degree "natura l , " i n t r i n s i c , given, and in a cer ta in l im i t ed sense, unchangeable, or, at l eas t , unchanging. 8 2. Each person's inner nature i s in part unique to himself and in part species-wide. 3. I t i s possible to study th i s inner nature s c i e n t i f i c a l l y and to discover what i t i s l i k e . 4. This inner nature, as much as we know of i t so far , seems not to be i n t r i n s i c a l l y or p r imar i ly or necessar i ly e v i l . . . . In fact i t can be said that the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of human nature have customarily been sold short . 5. Since th i s inner nature i s good or neutral rather than bad i t i s best to bring i t out and to encourage i t rather than suppress i t . If i t i s permitted to guide our l i f e , we grow healthy, f r u i t f u l , and happy. 6. If t h i s essent ia l core of the person i s denied or suppressed, he gets s ick sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes immediately, sometimes l a t e r . (pp. 3,4) b) Approach Maslow (1968) entered upon h is study with the desire to f ind out "what one r e a l l y i s l i k e ins ide , deep down, as a member or the human species and as a pa r t i cu la r i n d i v i d u a l " (p. 5). He believed that learning more about one's natural tendencies would give one more information on how to be happy, to be f r u i t f u l , to respect one's s e l f , to love, and to f u l f i l l one's highest p o t e n t i a l i t i e s . The approach Maslow chose was e x i s t e n t i a l -phenomenological in nature. From e x i s t e n t i a l psychology he 9 saw the relevance of two main emphases: f i r s t l y , the stress on the concept of iden t i ty and the experience of iden t i ty as the sine qua non of human nature and of any philosophy or science of human nature, and secondly, the stress on s ta r t ing from exper ien t i a l knowledge rather than from systems of concepts or abstract categories . Ex i s t en t i a l i sm rests on phenomenology in that i t uses personal, subjective experience as the foundation upon which abstract knowledge i s b u i l t . Maslow's study included eighty personal interviews and one hundred and ninety wri t ten responses of col lege students to the fol lowing set of in s t ruc t ions . I would l i k e you to think of the most wonderful experience or experiences of your l i f e ; happiest moments, ecs ta t ic moments, moments of rapture. . . . F i r s t l i s t these. And then t ry to t e l l me how you feel in such acute moments, how you feel d i f f e ren t ly from the way you feel at other times, how you are at that moment a di f ferent person in some ways, (p. 71) From the resu l t s of the interviews and wri t ten accounts, Maslow formulated a s ing le , composite descr ip t ion of some of the cogni t ive happenings found in "the B-love experience, the parental experience, the mystic, or oceanic, or nature experience, the aesthetic perception, the creat ive moment, the therapeutic or i n t e l l e c t u a l ins igh t , the orgasmic experience, ce r ta in forms of a t h l e t i c f u l f i l lmen t " (p.73). He ca l l ed these and other moments of highest happiness and fu l f i l lmen t peak-experiences. Maslow c a l l e d the spec ia l cognit ion occurring during these moments B-cognit ion or Cognition of 1 0 Being. The person with B-cognit ion i s able to perceive r e a l i t i e s others are unable to . In contrast i s D-cogni t ion, which i s organized around the deficiency needs of the i n d i v i d u a l . c) The Charac te r i s t i cs of Cognition in the Generalized Peak-Experience (Maslow, 1970) 1. The whole universe i s perceived as an integrated and uni f ied whole. . . . [One has] a c lear perception that the universe i s a l l of a piece and that one has a place in i t . One i s a part of i t , one belongs in i t . 2. The percept i s exc lus ive ly and f u l l y attended to . That i s , there i s a tremendous concentration of a kind which does not normally occur. There i s the truest and most t o t a l kind of v i s u a l perce iv ing , or l i s t e n i n g , or feel ing [which i s ] non-evaluating, non-comparing, or non-judging cogni t ion . 3. In the peak-experiences, we become more detached, more objective . . . more read i ly able to look upon nature as i f i t were there in i t s e l f and for i t s e l f . . . . The perceiver . . . can see i t in i t s own Being (as an end in i t s e l f ) . . . . The peak-experience seems to l i f t us to greater than normal heights so that we can see and perceive in a higher than usual way. We become la rger , greater, stronger, bigger, t a l l e r people and tend to perceive accordingly. 4. Perception in the peak-experience can be r e l a t i v e l y ego-transcending, s e l f - f o r g e t f u l , egoless, unse l f i sh . . . . I t becomes more object-centered than ego-centered. 5. The peak-experience i s f e l t as a s e l f - v a l i d a t i n g , s e l f - j u s t i f y i n g moment which ca r r i es i t s own i n t r i n s i c value with i t . . . . 11 It i s f e l t to be highly valuable . . . to make l i f e worthwhile by the i r occasional occurrence . . . to give meaning to l i f e i t s e l f . 6. [One recognizes] these experiences as end-experiences rather than means-experiences. . . . They are worthwhile in themselves. 7. There i s a cha rac t e r i s t i c d i so r i en ta t ion in time and space or even the lack of consciousness of time and space. Phrased p o s i t i v e l y th i s i s l i k e experiencing un ive r sa l i t y and e t e rn i t y . 8. The world seen in the peak-experiences i s seen only as beau t i fu l , good, des i rab le , worthwhile, e tc . and i s never experienced as e v i l or undesirable. The world i s accepted. People w i l l say that then they understand i t . . . . The bad things about l i f e are accepted more t o t a l l y than they are at other times. I t i s as i f the peak-experience reconci led people to the presence of e v i l in the world. 9. I t i s another way of becoming "godlike" . . . [of seeing] the whole of Being, of understanding i t , of seeing i t as inev i tab ly good and seeing " e v i l " as the product of l i m i t e d or s e l f i s h v i s i o n and understanding. 10. Being-values are the described cha rac t e r i s t i c s of the world as i t i s perceived in peak-experiences, or the i r r e d u c i b l e , i n t r i n s i c values of th i s r e a l i t y . [See below] 11. B-cognit ion in the peak-experience i s much more passive and receptive, much more humble, than normal perception i s . I t i s much more ready to l i s t e n and much more able to hear. 12. In the peak-experience, such emotions as wonder, awe, reverence, humi l i ty , surrender and even worship before the greatness of the experience are often reported . . . [and] a kind of r e c o n c i l i a t i o n and acceptance of death. • 13. In peak-experiences, the dichotomies, p o l a r i t i e s , and c o n f l i c t s of l i f e tend to be transcended or resolved. . . . There tends to be a moving toward the perception of unity and 1 2 in tegrat ion in the world. The person himself tends to move more toward fusion, in tegra t ion , and unity and away from s p l i t t i n g , c o n f l i c t s and opposi t ions. 14. There i s a l o s s , even though t rans ient , of fear, anxiety, i n h i b i t i o n , of defence and c o n t r o l , of pe rp lex i ty , confusion, c o n f l i c t , of delay and r e s t r a i n t . 15. Peak-experiences sometimes have immediate effects or after effects on the person. Sometimes the i r after effects are so profound . . . the person i s forever after changed. Lesser effects could be c a l l e d therapeutic. 16. The conception of heaven that emerges from the peak-experience i s one which ex i s t s a l l the time a l l around us, always ava i lab le to step into for a l i t t l e while at l eas t . 17. In peak-experiences, there i s a tendency to move more c lose ly to a perfect i d e n t i t y , or uniqueness, or to the idiosyncracy of the person, or to h is rea l s e l f , to have become more a rea l person. 18. The person feels more than at other times to be responsible, ac t ive , the creat ive centre of one's own a c t i v i t i e s and perceptions, more self-determined, more a free agent, with more "free w i l l " than at other times. 19. I t has also been discovered that prec ise ly those persons who have the c leares t and strongest iden t i ty are exact ly the ones who are most able to transcend the ego or the se l f and to become s e l f l e s s . 20. The peak-experiencer becomes more loving and more accepting, and so he becomes more spontaneous and honest and innocent. 21. He becomes less an object, less a th ing , less a thing of the world l i v i n g under the laws of the world, and he becomes more a psyche, more a person, more subject to the psychological laws, e spec ia l ly the laws of what people have c a l l e d the "higher l i f e . " 1 3 22. Because he becomes more unmotivated, that i s to say non-s t r iv ing , non-needing, non-wishing, he asks less for himself in such moments. He i s less s e l f i s h . 23. People during and after peak-experiences c h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y feel lucky, fortunate, graced. . . . A common consequence i s a fee l ing of grat i tude, in r e l i g ious persons, to the i r God, in others, to fate or to nature or to just good fortune. 24. The dichotomy between humil i ty and pride tends to be resolved . . . by fusing them into a s ingle complex superordinate uni ty , that i s by being proud ( in a ce r ta in sense) and also humble (in a cer ta in sense). 25. What has been c a l l e d the "uni t ive consciousness" i s often given in peak experiences, i . e . , a sense of the sacred glimpsed in and through the pa r t i cu l a r instance of the momentary, the secular , the wor ld ly , (pp. 59-68) Being-Values (Maslow, 1970) 1. Truth; honesty; r e a l i t y ; (nakedness; s i m p l i c i t y ; richness . . . beauty; pure; completeness). 2. Goodness: (r ightness; d e s i r a b i l i t y ; oughtness; jus t i ce . . . honesty). 3. Beauty: (r ightness; form; a l iveness; s i m p l i c i t y ; r ichness; wholeness; perfec t ion; completion; uniqueness; honesty). 4. Wholeness: (unity; in tegra t ion ; tendency to oneness; interconnectedness; s i m p l i c i t y ; organizat ion; s t ructure; order; not d issoc ia ted; synergy . . . ) . 4a. Dichotomy-transcendence: (acceptance, reso lu t ion , in tegra t ion , or transcendence of dichotomies, p o l a r i t i e s , opposites, 14 con t rad ic t ions ) ; synergy ( i . e . , transformation of oppositions into u n i t i e s , of antagonists into co l labora t ing or mutually enhancing par tners) . 5. Al iveness : (process; not-deadness; dynamic; e te rna l ; flowing . . . spontaneity . . . f u l l - f u n c t i o n i n g ; changing yet remaining the same; expressing i t s e l f ; never-ending). 6. Uniqueness: ( idiosyncrasy; i n d i v i d u a l i t y . . . ) . 7. Per fec t ion : (nothing superfluous; nothing l ack ing ; everything in i t s r ight place . . . s u i t a b i l i t y ; j u s t i c e ; nothing beyond . . . ) . 8. Completion: (ending; f i n a l i t y ; no more changing of the Ges ta l t ; f u l f i l lmen t . . . t o t a l i t y . . . no s t r i v i n g . . . not point ing to anything beyond i t s e l f ) . 9. J u s t i c e : (lawfulness; r ightness; r egu la r i ty . . . per fec t ly arranged). 10. S i m p l i c i t y : (honesty; nakedness; pur i ty . . . elegance abstract . . . the heart of the matter; bluntness . . . ) . 11. Richness: ( t o t a l i t y ; d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n ; complexity; i n t r i c a c y . . . a l l there . . . ) . 12. Effor t lessness : (ease; lack of s t r a i n , s t r i v i n g or d i f f i c u l t y ; grace; perfect and beaut i ful funct ioning) . 13. Playfulness: (fun; joy; amusement; gaiety; humor; exuberance; e f for t l essness ) . 14. S e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y : (autonomy; independence; not needing anything other than i t s e l f in order to be i t s e l f . . . i d e n t i t y ) . (pp. 92-94) As a resu l t of the study, Maslow (1968) defined s e l f - a c t u a l i z a t i o n as: an episode or a spurt in which the powers of a person come together in a p a r t i c u l a r l y e f f i c i e n t and intensely enjoyable way, and in which he i s more 1 5 integrated and less s p l i t , more open for experience, more i d io sync ra t i c , more per fec t ly expressive or spontaneous, or f u l l y funct ioning, more c rea t ive , more humorous, more ego transcending, more independent of h is lower needs, e tc . He becomes in these episodes more t ru ly himself , more per fec t ly ac tua l i z ing his p o t e n t i a l i t i e s , c loser to the core of his Being, more f u l l y human. (p. 97) Maslow found that these states or episodes could come at any time in l i f e and that s e l f - a c t u a l i z i n g people seemed to have them more frequently and intensely than average people. To be s e l f - a c t u a l i z i n g then, i s not an a l l or none a f f a i r , but a matter of degree and frequency. Flow Experience a) Background Csikszentmihalyi (1975) concerns himself with the question of how the po ten t ia l for enjoyment and play can be t ransla ted into a c t u a l i t y . He observed that man at play i s at the peak of h i s freedom and.d igni ty . He questioned why i t was that some people ( a r t i s t s for example) are w i l l i n g to give up mater ia l rewards for the e lus ive experience of performing enjoyable ac ts . What made play so l i b e r a t i n g and rewarding? In answering th i s question Csikszentmihalyi hoped to learn something that would help us make everyday l i f e more meaningful. 16 b) Approach The goal of Csikszentmihalyi ' s study was to understand "enjoyment" here and now, and not as anything e l se . Instead of approaching i t as something to be explained away in terms of conceptual categories, h is aim was to t ry to look at i t as an autonomous r e a l i t y that had to be understood on i t s own terms. To that end, he d id a ser ies of interview and questionnaire studies using people who were having peak experiences, who were i n t r i n s i c a l l y motivated and were involved in play as wel l as rea l l i f e a c t i v i t i e s . A c t i v i t i e s included mountain-climbing, chess, surgery, and various forms of dance. The purpose was to detect s i m i l a r i t i e s in the i r experience, the i r motivat ion, and the s i tua t ions that produce enjoyment. c) The Elements of Flow Experience Csikszentmihalyi (1975) defines flow as "the h o l i s t i c sensation that people feel when they act with t o t a l involvement" (p. 36). Action follows act ion according to an in te rna l log ic that seems to need no conscious intervent ion by the ac tor . There i s a un i f i ed flowing from one moment to the next and l i t t l e d i s t i n c t i o n between the se l f and the environment, the stimulus and the response or between past, 1 7 present, and future. The elements of flow are l inked together and dependent on each other. 1. Flow experience i s characterized by the merging of act ion and awareness. One i s aware of ac t ions , but not of awareness i t s e l f . When awareness i s s p l i t and one perceives the a c t i v i t y from the "outside," flow i s interrupted. Typ ica l l y flow can occur only for a short period of time. 2. There i s a centering of a t tent ion on a l im i t ed stimulus f i e l d . 3. The person in flow experiences a loss of ego, se l f forgetfulness, and a loss of self-consciousness. This does not mean a person loses touch with h i s own physica l r e a l i t y but that one becomes more intensely aware of in te rna l process. "What i s usual ly los t in flow i s not awareness of one's body and one's function, but the se l f construct , the intermediary which one learns to interpose between stimulus and response" (p.43). 4. The ind iv idua l in flow i s both in control of h is actions and of the environment. There i s not act ive awareness of cont ro l but he i s not worried about the p o s s i b i l i t y of lack of c o n t r o l . Flow experiences occur in a c t i v i t i e s where one can cope, at least t h e o r e t i c a l l y , with a l l demands for ac t ion . 5. The a c t i v i t y contains coherent, noncontradictory demands for act ion and provides c l ea r , unambiguous feedback. This i s possible because awareness i s l im i t ed to a r e s t r i c t e d f i e l d of p o s s i b i l i t i e s . Goals and means are l o g i c a l l y ordered. One does not stop and evaluate feedback as one i s too involved in the experience to r e f l ec t on i t . 6. Flow a c t i v i t i e s are of an au to te l i c nature (auto=self; telic=purpose, goa l ) . The par t ic ipant appears to need no goals or rewards external to the a c t i v i t y i t s e l f . Flow experience i s sought p r imar i ly for i t s e l f . "Achievement of a goal i s important to mark one's performance but i s not in i t s e l f 18 s a t i s f y i n g . What keeps one going i s the experience of act ing outside the parameters of worry and boredom, the experience of flow" (p.38). Whether or not flow occurs depends on the structure of the a c t i v i t y and the environmental condi t ions . Most people re ly on external cues to get into the flow state and therefore need a structured system of act ion ( i . e . , games, a r t , r i t u a l s ) . Others have learned to restructure the environment so i t w i l l allow flow to occur. Poets, a r t i s t s , s c i e n t i s t s , and those who meditate have learned to use cogni t ive techniques to order symbols so they can "play" with them anytime anywhere, regardless of environmental condi t ions . Idea l ly , one can learn to carry inside oneself the tools of enjoyment. But whether the structure i s in te rna l or external , the steps remain the same: the process of de l imi t ing r e a l i t y , of c o n t r o l l i n g some aspect of i t and then of responding to the feedback with a concentration that excludes anything else as i r re levant . In h is study of rock cl imbers , Csikszentmihalyi discusses another aspect of the flow experience, deep-flow. In report ing the i r experiences, some climbers used adjectives such as transcendent, r e l i g i o u s , v is ionary and e c s t a t i c . The deep-flow or v is ionary experience seems to occur in climbers at moments of re laxa t ion , of l e t t i n g go of tension, or at the f i n a l release. The deep-flow experience i s " p a r t i c l e , wave 19 and source at the same time" where one experiences "oceanic feel ings of- the supreme suf f ic iency of the present . . . oceanic feel ings of c l a r i t y , dis tance, union and oneness" (Robinson, 1969, pp.6,8 quoted in Csikszentmihaly i , 1975, p.81 ) . Imaginal Experience a) Background A basic dua l i ty in the nature of man has been a postulate of almost a l l r e l i g i o u s , p h i l o s o l p h i c a l and psychological systems. There are said to be two types of personal i ty that d i f f e r in the nature of the i r conscious experience (Bakan, 1978). This theory, based on the anatomical r ight and l e f t hemispheres of the b ra in , suggests that man has two " q u a l i t a t i v e l y di f ferent kinds of thought or consciousness, mediated by the two hemispheres" (Bakan, 1978, p.179). Left brain functions involve language, mathematics, l o g i c a l and a n a l y t i c a l thought, and sequences over time. The r ight brain tasks involve imagery, c r e a t i v i t y and h o l i s t i c th ink ing . Er icka Fromm (1978) describes primary process th inking as the f i r s t th inking process used by infants . This form of nonverbal imagery i s the function of the r ight hemisphere of the b ra in . The secondary process develops as the c h i l d learns 20 more about the world around him. This l o g i c a l , language oriented mode of functioning takes place in the l e f t b ra in . These processes never t o t a l l y dominate each other, but in te rac t . "Human consciousness, the subtle interplay of f l ee t ing images, perceptions of the immediate environment, memories of long gone events, and daydreams of future impossible prospects, a l l ca r r i ed along the stream of thought . . . represent a true miracle of our experience of being" (Singer, 1974, p . 1 ) . According to Fromm (1978) the primary process and secondary process range themselves along a continuum l i k e a sca le , where the primary process end i s characterized by v i v i d imagery and the secondary process end by l o g i c , reasoning and f u l l r e a l i t y o r i en t a t i on . In the a l te red states of consciousness (those other than the normal waking state) the prevalent mode of thought i s imagic and there i s greater access to subconscious and preconscious mater ia l . b) Approach Watkins (1976) describes a type of imagining which occurs between the waking and sleeping s ta tes . The body i s relaxed u n t i l i t i s near sleep, but awareness i s sustained. This state of consciousness i s the intermediary state of the half-dream. I t uses the ego to record and observe the 21 non-ego. "As the world of images appears, as i f from dreams, they are recorded and remembered, and at times interacted with" (p.15). Watkins c a l l s th i s conscious experiencing of images the waking dream. According to Watkins, our awareness usual ly merges with our thoughts, feel ings and actions and we become them. Thus no part of us remains to observe what i s going on and we lose recognit ion of the experience. Experiencing the imaginal "requires a d i s c i p l i n e in which the a b i l i t y to be aware must be freed from i t s usual tendency to attach i t s e l f to the object of i t s awareness, thereby los ing the a b i l i t y . t o r e f l ec t on that object" (p. 19). In a s imi l a r fashion, Deikman (1982) describes four domains of experience from which we derive our i d e n t i t y : the thinking se l f (planning, solving problems, worrying), the emotional se l f (anxious, joyous, angry, sad), the functioning se l f (act ing, doing), and the observing s e l f . This fourth se l f ex i s t s p r io r to thought, fee l ing and actions and i s incapable of being o b j e c t i f i e d . I t i s awareness i t s e l f . Deikman believes that the development of self-observat ion i s part of a journey that w i l l lead us from "self-centeredness to a new realm of freedom and a new source of knowledge" (p. 118). According to Watkins (1976) the difference between waking dreams and daydreaming i s c r u c i a l and the two should not be 22 confused. In daydreaming, the ego's a t tent ion becomes attached to the imaginal contents in the same way i t does to da i l y concerns. There i s no awareness during i t , whereas a waking dream involves aware pa r t i c i pa t i on in the imaginal . In daydreaming the imagination i s used not in a d i s c i p l i n e d search for the values of the imaginal, but as a re laxat ion from awareness, or perhaps to f lee from d i f f i c u l t i e s , or to f i l l voids (p. 19). In the i r studies of daydreaming and fantast ic thought, Singer (1968, 1974, 1975) and Starker (1982) discovered that the aspects of daydreaming that Watkins mentions have many pos i t ive q u a l i t i e s . These include helping the fantas t ic thinker to develop an in te rna l locus of c o n t r o l , to increase a b i l i t y to concentrate, and to have more cont ro l over daydreams and fantasies . These cha rac te r i s t i c s of the healthy and well-developed daydreamer suggest that he or she would have the q u a l i t i e s and d i s c i p l i n e necessary to experience waking dreams. c) The Charac te r i s t i c s of the Waking Dream 1. Waking dreams include many types of imaginings during which one i s aware, conscious, and able to remember what has gone on. 2. One must observe one's mental f lux without in t e r f e r ing in i t or becoming attached to i t s contents (thereby los ing awareness) and yet s t i l l be receptive to i t . 3. When one t r i e s to transform the ego by 23 separating i t s usual ac t ive , dominating, overwhelming aspect from i t s capacity to regis ter and allow movement, one i s f i r s t hindered by c r i t i c a l judgments, body rest lessness , e tc . 4. In t ry ing to get in touch with the image one must re f ra in from t ry ing to interpret i t or figure i t out. 5. I t i s impossible to predict what images w i l l r i s e , or how one already chosen w i l l change. 6. The body may at f i r s t a ss i s t i f i t i s thoroughly relaxed. Later , the state of the body i t s e l f can be seen to hold many images which re laxat ion would obscure. 7. I t i s helpful to have an element to focus on to help separate out awareness, for example, an external object, the breath, the sound of waves or wind, e tc . One can also f a c i l i t a t e the waking dream by placing oneself in an i n i t i a l image (walking in a meadow, cl imbing a mountain, or taking an image from a nocturnal dream). 8. One must approach the image with c u r i o s i t y and patience, g iv ing i t time and space, and al lowing i t to move and change i f i t des i res . 9. One must pay at tent ion to the d e t a i l s of each image to develop an imaginal perception, a s e n s i t i v i t y to the image's nature. 10. There are di f ferent media for experiencing imagery: v i s u a l , audi tory, and k ines the t i c . 11. One may imagine in many ways. These might include observing the image, being within the image, being the image i t s e l f or communicating with i t . 12. Each image has a pa r t i cu la r nature unto i t s e l f . What i t communicates i s what i t i s . Our l i s t e n i n g to i t ( in the ways that i t s nature, not our theory c a l l for) develops a s e n s i t i v i t y in us towards the imaginal, so that i t s movements and echoes in l i f e can be more read i ly and t r u l y f e l t . 24 Waking dreams make us fami l ia r with the imaginal . This allows us to recognize the a c t i v i t y of the psyche in our d a i l y l i v e s . To do th i s i t i s necessary to perceive d i f f e r e n t l y , to remain with the image, to persevere, to return to i t . We must deal with the image in an imaginal way and not t ry to t ranslate i t to the concreteness of everyday l i v i n g . According to Watkins, the imaginal s e l f , when we lend i t our awareness, works a process of transformation. RELIGIOUS APPROACHES C l a s s i c a l Mysticism There has been much debate in the l i t e r a t u r e over what t r u l y i s an accurate d e f i n i t i o n and descr ip t ion of the myst ical experience. Writers have attempted to c l a s s i f y myst ical experience according to a l i s t of cha rac t e r i s t i c s they have developed after studying the phenomenon. These l i s t s vary according to the author, although some features remain in common. i ) Evelyn Underh i l l Underh i l l (1961) set for th a widely accepted f ive-s tep analys is of the myst ical l i f e . Her c l a s s i f i c a t i o n was based 25 on studies of biographical and autobiographical material of scholars , sa in t s , and mystics and the process of experience they described. Underh i l l c a l l s these f ive stages the mystics pass through: The true mystic i s the person in whom such powers transcend the merely a r t i s t i c and vis ionary stage, and are exalted to the point of genius: in whom the transcendental consciousness can dominate the normal consciousness, and who has d e f i n i t e l y surrendered himself to the embrace of R e a l i t y . . . . Hence his mysticism i s no i so la ted v i s i o n , no fug i t ive glimpse of r e a l i t y , but a complete system of l i f e carrying i t s own guarantees and ob l iga t ions . (p. 76) Underh i l l (1961) devises her own four rules or notes which she states may be applied to any given case which claims to be myst ical experience. 1. True mysticism i s ac t ive and p r a c t i c a l , not passive and t h e o r e t i c a l . I t i s an organic l i f e -p roces s , a something which the whole se l f does; not something as to which i t s i n t e l l e c t holds an opinion. 2. I t s aims are wholly transcendental and s p i r i t u a l . It i s in no way concerned with adding to , explor ing , re-arranging, or improving anything in the v i s i b l e universe. The mystic brushes aside that universe, even in i t s supernormal manifestations. Though he does not, as his enemies declare, neglect his duty to the many, his heart i s always set upon the changeless One. 3. This One i s for the mystic, not merely the Rea l i ty of a l l that i s , but a lso a l i v i n g and 1 . 2. 3. 4. 5. Awakening Purgat ion I l luminat ion Dark Night of the Soul The Uni t ive L i f e 26 personal Object of Love; never an object of explora t ion . I t draws his whole being homeward but always under the guidance of the heart. 4. L i v i n g union with th i s One--which i s the term of his adventure--is a de f in i t e state or form of enhanced l i f e . It i s obtained neither from an i n t e l l e c t u a l r e a l i z a t i o n of i t s de l igh t s , nor from the most acute emotional longings. Though these must be present, they are not enough. I t i s a r r ived at by an arduous psychological and s p i r i t u a l process--the so-ca l l ed Mystic Way—entailing the complete remaking of character and the l i b e r a t i o n of a new, or rather latent form of consciousness; which imposes on the se l f the condit ion which i s sometimes inaccurately c a l l e d "ecstasy," but i s better named the Uni t ive State . (p. 81) Mysticism i s the art of es tabl i sh ing a conscious r e l a t i on to the Absolute. The moment of mystic consciousness i s not a sudden admission to an overwhelming v i s i o n of Truth, although th i s can happen. I t i s rather an ordered mount to higher l eve l s of r e a l i t y , to ever closer i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with the I n f i n i t e . According to U n d e r h i l l , in the early stages the mystic w i l l feel the Absolute in opposit ion with the S e l f . As the journey continues, the sense of opposit ion w i l l be abolished, and at term, the consciousness has a sense of a Being at the same time greater than the Self and yet i d e n t i c a l with i t . 27 i i ) W. T. Stace Stace (1960) c l a s s i f i e s myst ica l experience into two major types, these being a l i k e in many ways, but a lso very d i f ferent from each other, in that one i s an experience of the world (extrovert ive mysticism) and the other i s an experience of unitary consciousness, in the absence of any contents of consciousness ( in t rover t ive mysticism). He derives a l i s t of cha rac t e r i s t i c s for each which shows how they are s i m i l a r , but a lso di f ferent in important ways. As Stace says, they appear to be "two species of one genus" (p. 131). Extrover t ive Mysticism (nature mysticism) 1. The Unifying V i s i o n -- a l l things are One. 2. The more concrete apprehension of the One as an inner sub jec t iv i ty or l i f e , in a l l th ings . 3. Sense of o b j e c t i v i t y or r e a l i t y . 4. Blessedness, peace, e tc . 5. Feelings of the holy, sacred or d i v i n e . 6. Pa radox ica l i ty . 7. Alleged by the mystic to be inef fable . In t rover t ive Mysticism 1. The Unitary Consciousness; the One, the Void ; pure consc iousness. 2. Nonspat ia l , nontemporal 3. Sense of o b j e c t i v i t y or r e a l i t y . 4. Blessedness, peace, e tc . 5. Feelings of the holy, sacred or d i v i n e . 6. Pa radox ica l i ty . 7. Alleged by the mystic to be inef fab le . (pp. 131-132) 28 It was Stace 's be l i e f that ex t rover t ive , or nature mysticism was not a very deep or s ign i f i can t r e l i g i o u s experience. In contrast was in t rover t ive mysticism, which was long prepared for by r e l i g ious and other exercises , and had long- las t ing and profound effects on the l i f e of the i n d i v i d u a l . "Expanded" Mysticism Many wr i t e r s , studying various types of experience, have found i t necessary to expand the d e f i n i t i o n of mysticism to include a broader range of experiences that are not " r e l i g ious" in the c l a s s i c a l sense, or myst ical in the sense of the attainment of the Uni t ive L i f e through t r a d i t i o n a l contemplative methods. According to these wri ters "mystic" experience occurs in a bewildering var ie ty of forms. Home (1978) devised three scales of myst ical experience upon which the various types of experience might f a l l . They range from serious to non-serious, from obtained to spontaneous, and from r e l i g ious to nonre l ig ious . i ) Wi l l i am James In The Varieties of Rel i gi ous Experience, James (1902) bases his discussions on a pa r t i cu l a r d e f i n i t i o n of r e l i g i o n , 29 "the fee l ings , acts , and experiences of i nd iv idua l men in the i r so l i tude , so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in r e l a t ion to whatever they may consider d iv ine" (p. 32). James puts forth the argument that there i s wi th in the human consciousness "a sense of r e a l i t y , of object ive presence, a perception of what we may c a l l 'something there , ' more deep and more general than any of the spec ia l and pa r t i cu l a r 'senses' by which the current psychology supposes existent r e a l i t i e s to be o r i g i n a l l y revealed" (p. 58). According to James there are two ways for ind iv idua l s to view l i f e . There are the healthy-minded, whom he c a l l s the "once-born," and the sick souls , who experience a discordancy or d i suni ty and must be "twice-born" in order to be happy. He believes the union of the discordant selves may come gradually or occur abruptly, through various types of experiences. One of these experiences i s the myst ical experience. James studied personal experience exc lus ive ly in h is development of a descr ip t ion of mysticism. He discovered that the experience could be methodically cu l t i va t ed or i t could occur spontaneously in a var ie ty of forms. He l i s t s the fol lowing cha rac t e r i s t i c s of myst ical experience. 1. I n e f f a b i l i t y . The experience defies expression. No adequate report can be given in words. It must be d i r e c t l y experienced and cannot be imparted, or transferred to others. 2. Noetic Qua l i ty . The mystic experiences states of knowledge and insight into the depths of t ru th unplumbed by the i n t e l l e c t . He 30 experiences revelat ions and i l lumina t ions that are f u l l of s igni f icance and importance and carry with them a sense of au thor i ty . 3. Transciency. The experience cannot be sustained for long, one or two hours at the most. It can be reproduced in memory. 4. P a s s i v i t y . During t h i s type of consciousness, the mystic feels as i f h i s own w i l l were in abeyance and sometimes as i f he were grasped and held by a superior power. Memory of the content remains and a profound sense of i t s importance. (pp. 371-372) It was James' be l i e f that our normal waking consciousness i s but one type of consciousness and that a l l about i t l i e po ten t ia l forms of consciousness en t i r e ly d i f f e ren t . We might go through l i f e without being aware of them, u n t i l we apply the r ight stimulus and they appear in a l l the i r completeness. For James the keynote resul t of t h i s occurrence was r e c o n c i l i a t i o n . "It i s as i f the opposites of the world, whose contradictor iness and c o n f l i c t make a l l our d i f f i c u l t i e s and t roubles , were melted into uni ty" (p. 379). Up u n t i l t h i s point , the ind iv idua l i s conscious of his wrong part but also has a sense that there i s a better part to him. When the solut ion a r r ives the ind iv idua l i d e n t i f i e s his rea l being with th i s germinal higher part of himself . "He becomes conscious that th i s higher part i s conterminous and continuous with a MORE of the same q u a l i t y , which i s operative in the universe outside of him, and which he can keep in working touch wi th , and in a fashion get on board of and save himself when a l l h is 31 lower being has gone to pieces in the wreck" (p.499). i i ) Richard Bucke Bucke (1901) puts forth a theory that mysticism i s a kind of s a lva t ion , in which members of the human race evolve to a new l e v e l of consciousness. He bases th i s on the fact that the h i s to ry of man i s simply the h is tory of the evolut ion of new facu l t i e s one after the other. To other members of the race many of these might have seemed an imposs ib i l i t y or an absurdity before they were evolved. Bucke, therefore, believes that the attainment of cosmic consciousness awaits the whole race. At th i s stage of our evolu t ion , there ex i s t minds on a l l intermediate planes between self-consciousness and cosmic consciousness. This would explain the var ie ty of types of experience. Bucke out l ines the cha rac t e r i s t i c s of the Cosmic Sense. a) The subjective l i g h t . b) The moral e l eva t ion . c) The i n t e l l e c t u a l i l l u m i n a t i o n . d) The sense of immortal i ty . e) The loss of the fear of death. f) The loss of the sense of s i n . g) The suddenness, instantaneousness, of the awakening. h) The previous character of the man-moral and p h y s i c a l . i n t e l l e c t u a l , 32 i ) The age of i l l u m i n a t i o n . j ) The added charm to the personal i ty so that men and women are always strongly a t t racted to the person. k) The t ransf igura t ion of the subject of the change as seen by others when the cosmic sense i s ac tua l ly present. (p. 79) Bucke compiled th i s l i s t through studying h is own experience, in which he f e l t himself wrapped around by a flame-coloured cloud, the experiences of friends and acquaintances, and of sa in t s , mystics, poets, contemplatives and scholars found in the l i t e r a t u r e . i i i ) M. Laski As a resul t of her c u r i o s i t y about ecs ta t ic experience, Laski (1961) did an empir ical inves t iga t ion of ecs ta t ic experience involving a questionnaire survey. Her respondents were from her personal network. As wel l as examining data from th i s questionnaire group, Laski co l l ec ted texts for analys is from l i t e r a r y and r e l i g ious sources. Data from the three groups were used in obtaining the r e su l t s . Laski chose to c a l l the experience she was studying ecstasy because i t "named a range of experience characterized by being j o y f u l , t r ans i to ry , unexpected, rare, valued, and extraordinary to the point of often seeming as i f derived from a praeternatural source. . . . Ecstasy i s applied to 33 experiences that are di f ferent from those we could expect in the normal course of events and di f ferent in seeming to l i e outside the normal course of events" (pp. 5 ,6) . From the resul ts of the ana lys i s , Laski describes cer ta in cha rac t e r i s t i c s of the ecs ta t i c experience. 1. Ecstasy i s an experience which includes at least two of the fol lowing feel ings of ga in : "uni ty , e t e rn i ty , heaven; new l i f e , s a t i s f a c t i o n , joy, sa lva t ion , per fec t ion , g lory ; contact; new or myst ical knowledge. . . . [The experience w i l l a lso include at least one of the fo l lowing: ] loss of dif ference, time, place; of wor ld l iness , of des i re , sorrow, s i n ; of s e l f ; of words and/or images and/or sense; up fee l ings ; inside fee l ings ; l i g h t and/or heat fee l ings ; enlargement and/or improvement fee l ings ; l i q u i d i t y fee l ings ; feel ings of calm, peace" (p. 42). 2. Ecs ta t i c experience can be divided into two kinds according to the manner in which they are approached: withdrawal ecstasy (gradual loss of normal perception) and in tens i ty ecstasy (momentary and tumescent). 3. Intensi ty experience can be divided into three kinds: i ) adamic ecs tas ies : characterized by feel ings of renewal, new l i f e , another world, joy, sa lva t ion ; a sense of both the se l f and the environment. i i ) knowledge or knowledge/contact ecs tas ies : feel ings of knowledge gained that can seem to dawn spontaneously or have been communicated by someone or something e l se . i i i ) contact/union ecs tas ies : feel ings of union with someone or something e l se . 4. Intensi ty experience i s almost always preceded by contact wi th a t r igger ( i . e . , an object , event, idea) . 5. Ecs ta t i c experiences should not be valued for 34 the de l ight they give but for the i r bene f i c i a l r e s u l t s . 6. Ecstasy and the pursuit of ecstasy gives r i se to values and ideals opposed to those usual in and even necessary for the soc i a l l i f e of the community. These values are i n f l u e n t i a l in contemporary s o c i a l l i f e . 7. Occurrence of phys ica l events during ecs ta t ic experience i s frequently and cons is tent ly claimed. 8. The same person can have both withdrawal and in tens i ty ecs tas ies . The same person may enjoy di f ferent kinds of in tens i ty ecs tas ies . Laski concludes that "ecs ta t ic experiences must be treated as important outside r e l i g i o u s contexts, as having important effects on people 's mental and phys ica l wel l -be ing , on the i r aesthet ic preferences, the i r c r e a t i v i t y , the i r be l i e f s and philosophies and on the i r conduct" (p.373). iv) F . C. Happold Happold (1963) defines mysticism in such a way as to extend the range of experiences beyond the advanced and rare state c a l l e d Contemplation (The Uni t ive L i f e ) , a t tained by a few, to include a wide range of s p i r i t u a l and aesthetic experiences which he maintains are of the same character and proceed from the same source. Happold believes a person may be a mystic who i s not, and never could be c a l l e d a contemplative. There come to many, sudden moments that reveal new facets of reality with the more powerful, profound experiences happening perhaps once or twice in a, life-time. These experiences revolutionize an outlook or change a l i fe . Although the individual might seem the same he is changed within himself and nothing can be the same again. These individuals might not call themselves mystics, but they are experiencing what the "Contemplatives" experience in a more intense and continuous form. Happold, therefore, accepts a wide range of experiences, not limiting his discussion to the rare "contemplative" type. He advances seven characteristics of mystical states. 1. Ineffability. It defies expression in terms which are fully intelligible to one who has not known some analagous experience. It thus resembles a state of feeling rather than a state of intellect. 2. States of Knowledge (Noetic Quality). They result in insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect, insights which carry with them a tremendous sense of authority. Things take on a new pattern. . . . Even though he may not be able to say, in the language of the intellect, what he knows, he . . . is convinced with absolute certainty that he knows. 3. Transciency. They rarely last for any length of time. There is invariably a speedy return to normality. The following of a particular way of l i fe can, however, increase their frequency [The Illuminative Life, The Mystic Way of St. John of the Cross; The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola] and it would seem make them more controllable. 4. Passivity. It is possible to prepare oneself for the reception of mystical experience [The Way of Purgation, The Spiritual Exercises], yet 36 when they occur they carry with them a fee l ing of something given . . . as i f one were grasped and held by a power not h i s own. 5. A Consciousness of the Oneness of Everything. A l l creaturely existence i s experienced as a uni ty , as A l l in One and One in A l l . 6. A Sense of Timelessness. [It i s l i k e one i s in] a dimension other than clock time or any other sort of time . . . in a dimension where time i s not. 7. The convic t ion that the f ami l i a r , phenomenal ego i s not the real " I . " There i s another Se l f , the true Se l f , which i s not affected by ordinary happenings . . . but i s immortal, constant, unchanging and not bound by space-time. I t i s not only, an ind iv idua l s e l f , i t a lso has a universal q u a l i t y . (pp. 46-48) According to Happold, one does not go through th i s experience by choice. No one chooses to be a mystic of his own v o l i t i o n . He must undergo some sort of experience which i s of su f f i c i en t in tens i ty to lead to an expansion of normal consciousness and perception, so that there comes to him a new v i s i o n of r e a l i t y which dominates h is l i f e and thought. . . . The i l lumina t ion may be gradual, almost imperceptible, or sudden and v i o l e n t . If there i s . . . a swif t , overwhelming experience, i t i s usual ly preceded-by and i s the resul t of a long period of rest lessness, uncertainty and mental s t ress . (p. 52) v) James Home Home (1978) describes mysticism as a process of personal transformation involving a v is ionary c r i s i s , and occurring in a recognizable sequence in some l i v e s . Home understands the 37 serious mystic to be a person deeply involved with basic problems of a personal, r e l i g ious or metaphysical nature. As a r e su l t , he goes through a "process of creat ive transformation of the personal i ty , characterized by an i n t e l l e c t u a l , emotional or v is ionary i l l umina t ion experience at i t s c r i t i c a l stage" (p. 37). This transformation i s sought a c t i v e l y and does not just happen. This i s true for both in t rover t ive and extrover t ive mysticism. In the case of the in t rover t ive mystics, with the i r systematic methods of meditation and contemplation, the seeking i s apparent. For the extrover t ive mystics, the v is ionary experience seems to come unsought. There may be, however, "a considerable amount of deep personal preparation for an extrover t ive experience, although i t may be disorganized and unsystematic, and the mystic may not r ea l i ze what he i s doing" (p. 25). In both va r i a t i ons , ext rover t ive and i n t rove r t i ve , a recognizable process can be discerned, and i t i s t h i s process which i s for Home the essen t ia l feature of mysticism. He suggests that there are ac tua l ly three kinds of myst ical experience: i n t r o v e r t i v e , induced ex t rover t ive , and casual ex t rover t ive , casual ext rover t ive re fe r r ing to spontaneous experiences that have no effect on the l i f e of the i nd iv idua l because they are unrelated to any of h is problems and anx ie t i e s , or his attempts to cope with them. 38 Home believes that mysticism i s a frequently occurring process that can be recognized in r i t u a l , in some kinds of psychotherapy, and in crea t ive in s igh t s . PSYCHIATRIC APPROACH The Oxford Dictionary defines ha l luc ina t ion as " i l l u s i o n ; apparent perception of external objects not ac tua l ly present." Random House Dictionary's d e f i n i t i o n states that ha l luc ina t ion i s "a sensory experience of something that does not ex is t outside the mind . . . a false notion or impression." In the f i e l d s of medicine and psychia t ry , the presence of ha l luc ina t ions in the i nd iv idua l has been considered a symptom of mental breakdown, drug and a lcohol use, or organic i l l n e s s . According to the Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Third Edition (1983), a ha l luc ina t ion i s "a sensory impression (s ight , touch, sound, smel l , or taste) that has no basis in external s t imula t ion . Hal luc ina t ions can have psychologic causes, as in mental i l l n e s s , or they can resul t from drugs, a l coho l , organic i l l n e s s e s , such as a brain tumor or s e n i l i t y , or exhaustion. When ha l luc ina t ions have a psychologic o r i g i n , they usually r.epresent a disguised form of repressed c o n f l i c t " (p.483). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition [DSM III] (1980) of the American Psychia t r i c Associat ion sets out diagnostic c r i t e r i a for the group of disorders commonly termed schizophrenia. It i s stated that the i l l n e s s w i l l always involve , at some phase, delusions, ha l luc ina t ions , or disturbances in the form of thought. D i a g n o s t i c . C r i t e r i a for a Schizophrenic Disorder A. At least one of the fol lowing during a phase of the i l l n e s s : 1) b izarre delusions (content i s patently absurd and has no possible basis in f ac t ) , such as delusions of being con t ro l l ed , thought broadcasting, thought i n se r t i on , or thought withdrawal. 2) somatic, grandiose, r e l i g i o u s , n i h i l i s t i c , or other delusions without persecutory or jealous content. 3) delusions with persecutory or jealous content i f accompanied by ha l luc ina t ions of any type. 4) auditory ha l luc ina t ions in which ei ther a voice keeps up a running commentary on the i n d i v i d u a l ' s behavior or thoughts, or two or more voices converse with each other. 5) auditory ha l luc ina t ions on several occasions with content of more than one or two words, having no apparent r e l a t ion to depression or e l a t i o n . 6) incoherence, marked loosening of associa t ions , markedly i l l o g i c a l th ink ing , or marked poverty of content of speech i f associated with at least one of the fo l lowing: a) blunted, f l a t , or inappropriate a f fec t . b) delusions or ha l l uc ina t i ons . c) catatonic or other grossly disorganized behavior. Deter iora t ion from a previous l e v e l of functioning in such areas as work, s o c i a l , r e l a t i ons , and se l f - ca re . Duration: continuous signs of the i l l n e s s for at least s ix months at some time during the person's l i f e , with some signs of i l l n e s s at present. The six-month period must include an ac t ive phase during which there were symptoms from A, with or without a prodromal or res idual phase, as defined below. . . . Prodromol or Residual Symptoms 1) soc i a l i s o l a t i o n or withdrawal. 2) marked impairment in role functioning as wage-earner, student, or homemaker. 3) markedly pecul iar behavior ( e .g . , c o l l e c t i n g garbage, t a l k ing to se l f in pub l i c , or hoarding food). 4) marked impairment in personal hygiene and grooming. 5) blunted, f l a t or inappropriate a f fec t . 6) d igress ive , vague, overelaborate, c i rcumstant ia l or metaphorical speech. 7) odd or b izarre idea t ion , or magical th ink ing , e .g . , superst i t iousness , c la i rvoyance, telepathy, " s ix th sense," "others can feel my fee l ings , " overvalued ideas, ideas of reference. 8) unusual perceptual experiences, e . g . , recurrent i l l u s i o n s , sensing the presence of a force or person not ac tua l ly present. The f u l l depressive or manic syndrome. . . . Onset of prodromal or act ive phase of i l l n e s s before age 4 5 . 41 F. Not due to any Organic Mental Disorder or Mental Retardation. (DSM I I I , 1980, pp. 188-190) SUMMARY OF APPROACHES AND DISCUSSION Within the las t 30 years there has developed, wi thin Western Psychology, a "Third Force," which has emphasized devoloping a theory of human nature based on the study of experience. I t concerns i t s e l f with "topics having l i t t l e place in ex i s t i ng theories and systems; e . g . , love , c r e a t i v i t y , s e l f , growth, organism, basic need-gra t i f i ca t ion , s e l f - a c t u a l i z a t i o n , higher values, being, becoming, spontaneity, p lay, humor . . . ego-transcendence . . . meaning . . . transcendental experience, peak experience . . . and re la ted concepts" (Maslow, 1970, p. 80). Recognition of the v i v i d imaginal experience that transforms i s a r e l a t i v e l y recent development in Western psychology. Maslow (1968) takes a broad approach, looking at many experiences which are h igh l igh t s in the human l i f e , the v is ionary experience being one. From th i s group of experiences, he develops a l i s t of cha rac t e r i s t i c s of what he c a l l s "peak-experiences" in human l i f e . Maslow bases these cha rac t e r i s t i c s on actual descr ip t ions obtained from his subjects, be l iev ing that the s t a r t ing point for obtaining knowledge rests on the personal, subjective experience of the 42 i n d i v i d u a l . Maslow's descr ip t ion of the peak-experience opened up an area in psychology which led to a c loser study of what i t means to be human. Because he did not study the v is ionary experience in p a r t i c u l a r , i t s unique cha rac t e r i s t i c s become part of a pot pourri of cha rac t e r i s t i c s from many di f ferent types of experiences. The r e a l i t y of th i s pa r t i cu l a r experience, with i t s many nuances and sub t l e t i e s , and the impact i t has on the l i f e of the i n d i v i d u a l , i s not brought into the open, made c l ea r , and recognized as the important source of wholeness that i t i s . In h i s study of "flow experience," Csikszentmihalyi (1975) was, l i k e Maslow, attempting to i so la te and discover the meaning of a human phenomenon that appeared very important to those who experienced i t . Peak-experience and flow experience share many d i s t i n c t i v e features, in fact , experiencing flow, for many, may be a peak-experience. Maslow gives a very de ta i led descr ip t ion of h is subjects ' inner experiences, whereas Csikszentmihalyi provides a more concrete explanation of what makes "flow" poss ib le . The v is ionary experience i s mentioned as an aspect of the flow experience, and i s referred to as "deep-flow." I t occurs in the " l e t t i n g go" state after periods of flow. I t would seem that flow and deep-flow are very di f ferent experiences. In flow, awareness and act ion are merged. During the l e t t i n g go (relaxat ion) 43 state after flow, awareness returns and, in ce r ta in cases, t h i s awareness i s of a whole new R e a l i t y , that i s , the v is ionary experience. I t would seem appropriate that flow and deep-flow be studied separately. In flow experience, act ion and awareness merge. One i s aware of ac t ion , but not of awareness i t s e l f . According to Csikszentmihaly i , when awareness i s s p l i t , and one perceives the a c t i v i t y from the outside, flow i s interrupted. This i s quite d i f ferent from Watkins' (1976) approach to waking dreams and experiencing the imaginal . In th i s experience i t i s the very separating out of awareness that i s required. One must become an observer of oneself ( i . e . , of one's mental f l u x ) , and then of the images that a r i se when one manages to s t i l l the mental a c t i v i t y and allow awareness to take over. Although Watkins mentions the spontaneous v is ionary experience, her prime concern i s with descr ibing the process of experiencing the imaginal through the use of entry vehicles for the voluntary seeing of images in waking dreams. Beyond several b r ie f references to the experience of the imaginal as transforming, Watkins does not discuss what the imaginal experience means to the i n d i v i d u a l . Her approach involves a descr ip t ion of how to experience waking dreams. Watkins gives the imaginal an important place, and sees the development of the "Third Force" in psychology as opening the doors to the acceptance of the imaginal in everyday l i f e and in 44 psychotherapy. One could have an experience of the imaginal that could be ca l l ed a peak-experience, but i t would not be flow experience because awareness i s maintained and of primary importance. Although these three approaches within psychology have cha rac t e r i s t i c s in common, as wel l as basic differences, none of them has taken the imaginal experience that resul ts in transformation and looked at i t in i t s e l f , for what i t i s and what i t means to those who experience i t . Barely recognized in psychology, the v is ionary experience has, for the most part , been considered a part of the f i e l d s of r e l i g i o n and psychia t ry . In western socie ty , the v i s i o n and the ha l luc ina t ion are often considered synonomous. The ha l luc ina t ion i s thought of in terms of psychopathology and degeneracy. In many other cu l tu res , ha l luc ina t ions are seen in a r e l i g ious or s p i r i t u a l context, and the a b i l i t y to ha l luc ina te i s great ly respected (Starker, 1982). Perry (1977) suggests that "the a t t i tude of society i s in i t s e l f a decis ive factor in the formation of the symptoms of psychopathology and also c r u c i a l to the p robab i l i t y that the person caught in the ' p s y c h o t i c a l l y ' a l tered states of consciousness w i l l be regarded as saints or be sent downriver in the ship of fools , or be caged as beings regressed to the l e v e l of beasts or be held in awe as vessels of d ivine or demonic possession" (p. 12). In our western soc ie ty , with i t s 45 r a t i o n a l , s c i e n t i f i c world-view, i t i s more l i k e l y that v is ionary experience w i l l be considered a psychotic rather than a s p i r i t u a l experience. And even i f i t were considered a r e l i g ious experience, i t i s questionable whether our cul ture would look on i t with any less fear and d i s t rus t than i t looks on the psychotic experiences. Even to organized r e l i g i o n the v is ionary experience has been somewhat suspect. There i s much attempt in the l i t e r a t u r e on mysticism to ident i fy true mystics from "fa lse" mystics. According to Underh i l l (1961), Zaehner (1959), and Stace ( i960) , the v is ionary experience i s a lesser experience, perhaps occurring in the mystic on the way to the greater experience of a t t a in ing the Uni t ive L i f e . I t might also occur spontaneously, in an i so la ted fashion, in the l i v e s of ind iv idua l s not seeking the Uni t ive L i f e in the d i s c i p l i n e d fashion of the great myst ics . Stace c a l l s t h i s experience "nature" mysticism or "extrover t ive" mysticism and stresses that i t i s not as important as " in t rove r t ive" mysticism. There has been an attempt made by various authors to extend the meaning of mysticism to include spontaneous experiences in ind iv idua l s who are not on a d i s c i p l i n e d search for the Uni t ive L i f e . The intent of these authors i s to take the myst ical experience out of the context of organized r e l i g i o n , and move i t in to the realms of small "r" r e l i g i o n and normal human psychological experience. 46 Through examining experiences, -the authors e s t ab l i sh l i s t s of cha rac t e r i s t i c s believed to be the basic c r i t e r i a necessary to formulate a descr ip t ion of the experience. These l i s t s tend to depend on the personal experience and be l i e f s of the author. For example, Bucke (1901) had a profound v is ionary experience which transformed h i s l i f e . James (1902) d id not experience t h i s . As a r e su l t , James' l i s t of four cha rac t e r i s t i c s appears rather sparse compared to Bucke's eleven, which are dramatical ly coloured by his pa r t i cu l a r experience. Bucke f e l t himself to be wrapped in l i g h t , therefore he states that a cha rac t e r i s t i c of the Cosmic Sense i s the experience of the subjective l i g h t . Kappold (1963) bases a good port ion of h is l i s t on James (1902). Charac te r i s t i c s on which a l l agree include a consciousness of the Oneness of everything, where a l l existence i s experienced as a Uni ty , as A l l in One and One in A l l , and the attainment of a state of knowledge involv ing ins ight into the depths of t ru th not reached by the r a t iona l i n t e l l e c t . There i s agreement that myst ical experience (expanded de f in i t i on ) involves the experiencing of a state of consciousness, "which allows the ind iv idua l to see a di f ferent r e a l i t y . This experience tends to be transforming in that ind iv idua l s appear to gain tremendous ins ights that revolu t ion ize the i r outlooks or change the i r l i v e s in a way that might or might not be evident to others. 47 Home (1978) also sees the necessity of seeing mysticism from a broader perspect ive. In looking at the c l a s s i c a l d e f i n i t i o n of mysticism, he out l ines the psychological process the mystic undergoes while fol lowing "The Mystic Way." After examining Stace 's ideas of the two types of mysticism, in t rover t ive and ex t rover t ive , Home continues to look more c lose ly at ext rover t ive or spontaneous mysticism. He believes that serious people who have spontaneous v is ionary experience, are ac tua l ly fol lowing the same psychological process as the in t rover t ive myst ics . That i s , they experience very deeply a problem of l i f e for which they are seeking a s o l u t i o n . The answer occurs with the v is ionary experience, after which the ind iv idua l continues l i f e with a profoundly transformed world-view. Many of the studies of mysticism are t i e d to theore t i ca l in te rpre ta t ion and are heavi ly couched in r e l i g ious terms. These types of studies are"one step removed from the experience i t s e l f , and concerned with in terpre t ing i t and c l a s s i f y i n g i t into a pa r t i cu l a r type according to the r e l i g ious background of the myst ic . This approach looks at the experience from the outside and describes i t in theore t i ca l terms. The meaning of the experience seems to be i r r e l evan t . Even those authors who attempt to describe myst ical experience without in te rpre ta t ion , remove themselves from meaning. Their descr ipt ions include l i s t s of 48 cha rac t e r i s t i c s of what the experience i s , but ignore the meaning i t holds for the i n d i v i d u a l . The attempt to broaden the t r a d i t i o n a l d e f i n i t i o n of mysticism has helped move v is ionary experience from the domain of r e l i g i o n , into the realm of psychology, where i t can be reclaimed as the human experience i t i s . The "Third Force" in psychology i s only beginning to pay heed to and study the higher nature of human beings, that nature which i s able to touch higher R e a l i t i e s and become more than what i t was. This once " r e l i g ious" experience i s beginning to be seen as "human" experience. Although vis ionary experience i s mentioned in several psychological s tudies, and forms a part of Maslow's important work, i t has never been studied on i t s own. What happens to people when they have t h i s experience? What meaning does i t hold for them? This important source of transformation, growth and healing has yet to be studied from the point of view of those who experience i t . THE EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGICAL APPROACH What i s needed i s a fundamental descr ip t ion of the meaning of the v i v i d imaginal experience that resul ts in pos i t ive and l a s t i ng transformation. To explore th i s human experience ob jec t ive ly requires a methodology that "remains with the experience as i t i s being experienced, one which 49 t r i e s to sustain contact with experience as i t i s given" ( C o l a i z z i , 1978, p. 53). A r e l i a b l e approach to the discovery of meaning i s the existential-phenomenological method of desc r ip t ion . Existential-phenomenology looks at questions r e l a t i ng to human experience. I t i s a blend of two d i s c i p l i n e s : e x i s t e n t i a l i s m , a philosophy which seeks to understand the human condi t ion as i t reveals i t s e l f in concrete, l i v e d s i tua t ions , and phenomenology, a methodology which allows contact with phenomena as they are ac tua l ly l i v e d out and experienced. Phenomenology i s , therefore, an appropriate methodology for examining the content of e x i s t e n t i a l phi losophies . The basic premise of existential-phenomenology i s that the i nd iv idua l and h is or her world co-const i tu te each other. One must have a context and i t i s through the context of the world that the meaning of one's existence emerges. The source of raw data for research i s the " l i f e - w o r l d . " "By the ' l i f e - w o r l d ' phenomenologists mean the everyday world as i t i s l i v e d by a l l of us p r io r to explanations and theore t i ca l in terpre ta t ions of any kind" ( G i o r g i , 1975, p. 99). This i s the world as given in d i rec t and immediate experience, the world as l i v e d by the i n d i v i d u a l . There i s nothing previous to one's d i rec t experience of the world. It i s , therefore, the basis of a l l knowledge. 50 Existential-phenomenology attempts to understand human l i f e in a way that i s as free as possible of c u l t u r a l presupposit ions. Because th i s aim of presupposit ionless descr ip t ion i s v i r t u a l l y impossible, the phenomenologist w i l l exp l i ca t e , as completely as poss ib le , the assumptions that do e x i s t . This w i l l help him or her assume the vantage point of a transcendental a t t i tude from which to view the data. The goal of existential-phenomenology i s to understand and expl ica te the structure of human experience and behaviour through descr ip t ive techniques. The approach i s concerned with understanding phenomena as they e x i s t , and i s not concerned with expla in ing , p red ic t ing or c o n t r o l l i n g . It asks the question "what?" and not "why?" The phenomenologist looks for the meaning of the experience by studying ind iv idua l examples of that experience. The phenomenon reveals pa r t i cu l a r va r ia t ions at d i f ferent times, but has the same essen t ia l meaning when seen over time, in many s i t ua t ions . The sructure of a phenomenon i s t h i s commonality running through i t s many diverse appearances. "The task of the e x i s t e n t i a l -phenomenological psychologist i s one of d i s c lo s ing the nature of structure in the form of meaning" (Valle & King, 1978, p. 17). The meaning i s made e x p l i c i t through d i s c i p l i n e d r e f l ec t i on on the ind iv idua l experiences and i s d isc losed through desc r ip t i on . 51 Thematic analys is ( C o l a i z z i , 1978) i s a rigorous approach leading to a strong descr ip t ion of the meaning of a phenomenon. In th i s method, the phenomenologist becomes very fami l ia r with the co-researcher 's descr ip t ions , c a l l e d protocols . After he or she has acquired a sense of them, s ign i f i can t statements are extracted and a meaning i s formulated for these statements. The phenomenologist must use creat ive ins ight to make e x p l i c i t what i s i m p l i c i t in the data. The formulated meanings are organized into c lus te rs of themes. An attempt i s made to allow for the emergence of themes that are common to a l l of the protocols . The themes are val idated by refer r ing back to the protocols to ensure that a l l themes are implied in the o r i g i n a l data. These resu l t s are wri t ten into an exhaustive descr ip t ion which describes the meaning of the experience in as complete a form as poss ib le . A statement of the fundamental structure of the phenomenon i s then formulated from the exhaustive desc r ip t ion . The descr ip t ion i s val idated at various stages by returning to the co-researchers for v e r i f i c a t i o n and feedback. The existential-phenomenological method involves "a refusal to t e l l the phenomenon what i t i s , but a respectful l i s t e n i n g to what the phenomenon speaks of i t s e l f " ( C o l a i z z i , 1978, p. 52). This method i s useful for understanding the meaning of a phenomenon as i t ex i s t s in ind iv idua l l i v e s . As C o l a i z z i (1978) states, "Without thereby f i r s t d i s c lo s ing the foundations of a phenomenon, made concerning i t , not even taken towards i t , by s i lence cogni t ion" (p. 28) . 52 no progress whatsoever can be a f i r s t f a l t e r ing step can be or by any other kind of 53 CHAPTER III: METHOD CO-RESEARCHERS In existential-phenomenological research, the subjects involved in the study are c a l l e d co-researchers. The study of the phenomenon i s viewed as a j o in t project where researcher and co-researcher col laborate to make sense out of the experience. This i s based on the notion that the person who has had the experience i s the expert. He or she i s the c u l t u r a l representative of the population of people who share that common experience. Select ion of co-researchers . To be selected for t h i s study the co-researchers were required to meet a set of spec i f i c c r i t e r i a . The co-researcher must have had a v i v i d imaginal experience that resul ted in personal transformation. He or she has l i v e d through the experience and has been able to r e f l ec t on i t s meaning. The co-researcher must be able to communicate th i s experience and must have enough distance from the experience to be able to ta lk coherently about i t . A l l co-researchers 54 were required to be adults as opposed to ch i ld ren , as people who are adults have had more of an opportunity to experience the phenomenon. They also have more l i f e experience and a greater vocabulary and are therefore more l i k e l y . t o be able to communicate the i r experience. The co-researchers were of a Western s o c i e t a l - c u l t u r a l background as opposed to an Asian background. They were recru i ted through contacts wi thin the researcher 's personal and professional network. Demographic information This information was obtained after the interview process. I t was not a basis for the se lec t ion of co-researchers. The study began with f ive co-researchers, four females and one male. The analys is was completed using the protocols of only four of the f ive co-researchers interviewed. The f i f t h p ro toco l , that of the male, was not used in the protocol analysis and the formulation of the themes. B, who i s presently 31, had a v is ionary experience when he was 13 years o l d . Although he i s able to describe the experience f ac tua l l y , he has not ref lec ted on the meaning the experience might have held for him. As an adul t , he " res i s t s th inking about i t because [he has] problems be l iev ing that God i s as loving as some people believe He i s . " He believes the 55 experience must have a spec ia l s ign i f i cance , but feels he's los t touch with that . "I don't feel that specialness anymore. . . . I t ' s almost l i k e I 've forgotten how specia l i t i s , or los t touch with i t . . . . I guess i t ' s the meaning . . . what i t must mean that I 've l o s t . . . . I can attach an i n t e l l e c t u a l meaning to i t . . . but i t ' s l i k e I 've divorced my feel ings from i t . " Because B was unable to capture the meaning of h i s experience, i t was decided not to use his protocol in the ana lys i s . It i s included in the appendix. When they had the i r experiences, the co-researchers ranged in age from 26 to 45 years. At the time of the interviews, the experiences had occurred from 1 year to 35 years e a r l i e r . A l l of the co-researchers had a col lege education. Their employment over the course of the i r l i v e s included: ed i to r , homemaker, t r ave l consultant, therapis t , teacher, researcher, ar ts consultant , economist. Two of the co-researchers come from the Jewish t r a d i t i o n , two from the Protestant t r a d i t i o n and one i s Roman Ca tho l i c . THE INTERVIEW Each co-researcher was interviewed twice. The f i r s t interview e l i c i t e d a descr ip t ion of the experience. The second was used to va l ida te the themes that were extracted from the i n i t i a l s tory . 56 The f i r s t interview The co-researcher 's story was gathered through interview. This method was chosen in order to access a de ta i led descr ip t ion of the experience as l i v e d , and to gain a r i c h and v i v i d understanding of the experience. The interview was unstructured to help e l i c i t the story in a free, open and unbiased way. A preamble was read (see below) to the co-researcher, and then he or she was asked to describe the experience in the form of a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. The story was e l i c i t e d with the a id of empathic responding, r e f l e c t i v e l i s t e n i n g , probing for meaning, paraphrasing, and asking for d e t a i l . The meaning of the experience was explored by staying close to the experience as described by the co-researcher and focusing on the meaning he or she gave to i t . Information was also gathered by observing non-verbal behaviour. Add i t iona l research questions were asked, when necessary, to help elaborate the story further (see below). These questions were formulated from presuppositions of what the v is ionary experience i s , uncovered during the review of the l i t e r a t u r e . Often the issues covered by these questions emerged spontaneously, therefore not a l l questions had to be asked. 57 Preamble I am doing a study to understand the meaning of the v i v i d imaginal experience that i s so powerful that i t produces a l a s t i ng personal transformation. After t h i s experience you are a d i f ferent person and th i s difference stays with you. This v is ionary experience might be p r imar i ly v i s u a l , that i s you see i t , or audi tory, you hear i t , or k ines the t i c , that i s you feel i t in your body. Because such an experience w i l l occur in the context of a l i f e s i t u a t i o n , I would l i k e you to think back to a time in your l i f e when th i s happened, then describe the experience to me in as much d e t a i l as poss ib le , as i f you were t e l l i n g me a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Be espec ia l ly aware of your thoughts, your fee l ings , and your ac t ions . You can begin where you are leading up to the experience. Interview Questions 1. What was happening in your l i f e at the time you had your experience? 2. What was your emotional state at the time? 3. Where did your experience occur? Was there anything specia l about t h i s place? 4. Please describe your experience. 5. What d id you do immediately after? 6. What about the experience made i t special? 7. How did i t make an impact on you? How were you di f ferent after? 8. Was your understanding immediate or delayed? 9. Did you share your experience with someone? Why? Why not? 10. How do you understand your experience now? The Second Interview The second interview was a va l i da t i on interview, the purpose of which was to ver i fy the themes extracted through the analys is of the protocols . The co-researcher had the opportunity to read the t ranscr ip t of h is or her f i r s t 58 interview and a descr ip t ion of the themes before the second interview. The co-researcher was asked i f the t ranscr ip t was accurate and i f he or she wanted to add anything. Speci f ic questions were asked to c l a r i f y and expand'on meaning and to f i l l out the story as necessary. The ra t ionale used in ext rac t ing the themes was explained. The co-researcher was asked to ta lk about each theme. During the ensuing dialogue, the co-researcher revealed how a descr ip t ion of a theme was true or not true to h is or her pa r t i cu l a r experience. He or she was inv i t ed to suggest changes or addit ions that would make the theme more accurate and representative of the experience. The co-researcher was asked i f anything•that was an important aspect of h i s or her experience was missing. PROCEDURE The i n i t i a l contact with the co-researchers was by telephone. The study was explained and an interview time arranged. Before the interview, any questions the co-researcher had were answered and the consent form was signed. Some time was spent es tab l i sh ing rapport. The interview was audio-taped. The co-researcher was l e f t to t e l l the story in h is or her own way. Questions were asked when they seemed appropriate. The interviews were between one and two hours in length. 59 After the interview, the audio-tape was t ranscribed and put into typed copy. Conf iden t i a l i t y was maintained by using i n i t i a l s instead of names and erasing the tapes after the ana lys is was complete. A protocol analys is was completed according to the C o l a i z z i method (1978). Two weeks before the second interview, a descr ip t ion of the themes and a copy of the t ranscr ip t were given to each co-researcher. The second interview was held for the purpose of va l i da t i ng the themes. These interviews were one to two hours in length. A l l occurred wi th in 8 months of the i n i t i a l in terviews. Any changes or addi t ions suggested by the co-researchers were incorporated into the descr ip t ion of the themes. The themes were integrated into an exhaustive descr ip t ion of the experience. This was then summarized into a condensed structure to reveal the essen t ia l core of the experience. ANALYSIS OF PROTOCOLS The analys is of the protocols was done according to C o l a i z z i ' s method (1978, pp.59-62). i ) The t ranscr ip t s were read and reread with the purpose of becoming very fami l i a r with them, acquir ing a fee l ing for them 60 and making sense of them. i i ) In each t r ansc r ip t , references per ta ining d i r e c t l y to the experience were underl ined. These s ign i f i can t statements were extracted from the t ranscr ip t and wri t ten on index cards. When several protocols made the same or s imi la r statements, the repe t i t ions were e l iminated. i i i ) Meanings were formulated from each spec i f i c statement. This task involved making e x p l i c i t what might be implied in the statement, moving beyond the statement, but remaining true to i t . According to C o l a i z z i (1978), t h i s involves "creative insight . . . to leap from what subjects say to what they mean" (p. 59). This process of formulating meanings was repeated with each p ro toco l . An attempt was made to use the co-researchers ' words wherever poss ib le . Some meanings were already c lear and e x p l i c i t . The co-researchers made these statements while looking back at what the i r experiences had meant to them. "And something I 've held on to . In d i f ferent times that always comes back to me very s t rongly ." "I f ind th i s [a mammogram] t e r r i b l e and I remember that connection and just holding on to that ." "[It was] something I could hold on to . . . something that would s tay." "I do dip into that, experience as I would dip into a w e l l , of ten." 61 The meaning here i s c l e a r . The experience remains a source of support that one can hold on to . Other statements contained implied meanings. A cer ta in amount of ins ight was required in deciding what meaning to attach to these s ign i f i can t statements. The co-researchers were descr ibing what i t was l i k e for them just before the i r experiences. "You're just l o s t . " "I was in a very peaceful state . . . as part of the medi ta t ion." "I was just waiting . . . I was longing." "[I had] a sense of being in unison with some whole natural process." Although the descr ipt ions were very d i f fe ren t , the underlying meaning of the experience described appeared to be the same, a sense of openness and r e c e p t i v i t y . The cards containing s ign i f i c an t statements with the same or s imi la r meanings were f i l e d together. An attempt was made to keep these groups in an order s imi l a r to the i r mention in the pro tocols . iv) The groups of cards with common meanings were compared and s imi l a r meanings across groups were found. These groups were then col lapsed down to one group, thus formulating s imi la r meaning groups into c lus te rs or themes that were common to a l l of the experiences. This was a further step in bringing forth and making e x p l i c i t what was implied, in the data. The fol lowing groupings of s ign i f i can t statements wi s imi l a r meaning show the process.of moving from groups of s imi l a r meaning to c lus te r ing these groups into a common theme. Group 1 "The bar r ie rs are gone." "What I have done i s crashed through th i s b a r r i e r . " "I 've cracked open a l e v e l in my own perception of what's rea l and what's poss ib l e . " Group 2 "That's one of the experiences in my l i f e where I'm more open to be l iev ing the unbel ievable." "[I'm] more open to i t happening." "The difference now i s that I know what the p o s s i b i l i t y i s . " "I'm just as sure that there 's some other l e v e l that I haven't seen yet ." Group 3 "That the here i s much bigger, that r e a l i t y i s much greater than we usually are open to understanding." "I have a deeper sense . . . my r e a l i t y comes from a deeper l i v e d experience of what the p o s s i b i l i t i e s are for people." "When you have th i s experience i t ' s very u p l i f t i n g and you get into a kind of transcendent perspective and that i s very r e a l . " Group 4 "I think that I'm more uncomfortable now with things that I might have accepted more eas i ly before." 63 " I t ' s for me worshipping graven images or sacred cows or anything other than the rea l t h ing . " "[I was] very very deeply pained seeing the logging up there. . . . I t f e l t l i k e a physical scarr ing and I was pained by i t personally and I found myself r e a l l y sobbing." The s ign i f i c an t statements with s imi la r meanings were placed into groups. These groups were compared to f ind a s imi l a r meaning across groups and then placed together in a c l u s t e r . A l l of the statements were studied and the meaning of the experience within that c lus te r was ref lec ted on. In the example, the essence of the meaning of th i s theme seemed to be captured by the l abe l "A sense of having gained a new l e v e l of perception." When the c lus t e r ing process was complete, the themes were described by drawing upon the s ign i f i can t statements and meaning groups within each c lus te r to formulate the desc r ip t ion . After the themes were formulated, they were val idated by refer r ing back to the o r i g i n a l pro tocols . This was to ensure that the descr ip t ion was accurate and complete, not departing from the experience, nor leaving anything out. I t was important to double check that the themes were common to a l l of the co-researchers ' experiences. v) The themes were organized into groups according to when they occurred in the experience and the meaning they held for 64 the co-researchers Three groups were formed: Before the Experience, During the Experience, and After the Experience. The themes wi th in each group were l i s t e d in approximate order of the i r occurrence. It was impossible to place themes in the i r exact order as many of them appear simultaneously during the experience. DESCRIBING THE EXPERIENCE Exhaustive Descr ipt ion The themes were integrated into an exhaustive descr ip t ion of the experience. This desc r ip t ion , which includes a l l of the themes, takes the form of a nar ra t ive , an abstract story which i s true to a l l of the co-researchers ' s t o r i e s . The descr ip t ion follows the organizat ion of the c lus te rs of themes. The themes themselves were woven together into a whole to form a de ta i led account of the meaning of the experience. The descr ip t ion reveals the structure of the experience as f u l l y and as c l e a r l y as poss ib le . Essen t i a l Structure The exhaustive descr ip t ion was summarized to reveal the essen t ia l core or structure of the experience. This statement 65 d i r e c t l y addresses the question of meaning in as succinct and unequivocal a manner as poss ib le . 66 CHAPTER IV: RESULTS A SUMMARY OF THE CO-RESEARCHERS' EXPERIENCES Case G G was very pleased about being pregnant with her f i r s t c h i l d and was looking forward to the b i r t h . She f e l t very involved with a natural process and spent much time during her pregnancy in nature. As she was having contractions during the de l i ve ry , she f e l t she was caught up in a cosmic rhythm and that she was involved in a huge contraction-expansion experience that was going on inside of her and outside of her. After a time th i s disappeared. The rest of the b i r t h was a nightmare and the baby died . Even though everything went wrong, because of her experience of the cosmic rhythm, G f e l t she knew what c h i l d b i r t h r e a l l y was, and f e l t supported by that during her g r i ev ing . Later in her l i f e , G experienced depression and i l l n e s s . After the assassination of President Kennedy, G supported her family and fr iends, but d idn ' t take the time to deal with- her own fee l ings . She spent several a months confined to her bedroom where she often sat in a chair and looked at a dogwood tree outside her window. After a 67 time, she noticed she was looking at one branch of the t ree . One day, she had the sense she could jo in in the l i f e of the branch. She knew what i t was l i k e in a l l seasons. I t was as i f she was the branch. After t h i s experience, G was able to begin l i v i n g again. She wrote a series of s tor ies which helped her uncover her pain and anguish. Case C For C, l i f e had been d i f f i c u l t for many years. She l i v e d a charade, pretending that problems d idn ' t ex is t wi thin her marriage. She f e l t she had to keep up the appearance of being a good wife and mother and that i t was her r e s p o n s i b i l i t y to keep the family unit together. On the outside she l i v e d a l i f e of pretense, while her inner se l f c r i e d out for help . The rea l person inside was thoroughly imprisoned. As the stress of keeping up the facade increased, C decided to attend a weekend workshop on meditation with several hundred people. While there and watching a l l of those animated, a l i v e people, she f e l t she was looking in at an aquarium and that she wasn't a rea l person l i k e the res t . A fr iend happened to say something that struck a nerve and C began to weep uncont ro l lab ly . A parade of past memories of painful s i tua t ions passed before her eyes. This went on for several hours along with the t e r r i f i c sobbing. She f e l t t o t a l l y los t 68 and exhausted when she f i n a l l y f e l l asleep. During the night C awoke and rea l i zed she was t o t a l l y relaxed and very aware. Around her bed were standing nine men, four along the side and f ive grouped at the end. The four C recognized, her meditation ins t ruc to r , Maharishi , Moses and Jesus. She d idn ' t recognize the other f i v e . C f e l t from them t o t a l love, acceptance and support. They were the ultimate in beauty and wisdom and the opposite of the a r t i f i c e she'd been l i v i n g . After a time, they disappeared and she slept a b i t . C awoke fee l ing l i k e she was t o t a l l y new. She f e l t the union of her inner and outer selves, and now experienced l i f e as rea l because she was doing the l i v i n g of i t and not pretending. Case S For S, several d i f f i c u l t events occurred at the same time in her l i f e . Her husband, from whom she was separated, announced a decis ion to move east. As w e l l , she had a painful disagreement with her advisor at u n i v e r s i t y . I t was the f i r s t anniversary of her fa ther ' s death and the anniversary of a suicide attempt she'd made f ive years e a r l i e r . She was very aware of the spring and the Easter and Passover seasons. In the face of a l l t h i s , S found herself withdrawing from everything and everybody. She f e l t tremendous a l i ena t ion and disconnection and spent several weeks alone. During that 69 time, S found herself longing for a connection. She f e l t the need to go ins ide , to get away from the externals and to be s p i r i t . She d id a lo t of crying that f e l t hea l ing . After several weeks of t h i s , S awoke during the night to feel a power and a presence in her room. She f e l t i t in her body f i r s t , and then she saw the l i g h t . I t was radia t ing from the c e i l i n g and was extremely beaut i ful and powerful. She f e l t a f ra id of the power and asked for help not to be a f r a i d . She f e l t a warmth and a peacefulness spread throughout her body. She dialogued with the l i g h t , forming questions in her mind. What she got was a tremendous fee l ing of aff i rmation going through her body, a fee l ing of being affirmed, blessed and loved. I t was l i k e an outpouring. The power was outside of her and inside her at the same time, and she f e l t enfolded in i t . Tears of happiness poured out of her. At a cer ta in point S f e l t she could get up. She d idn ' t want to break the connection, but needed to go to the bathroom. In a matter of days, S was reconnecting with the people in her world. She experienced that summer a deep sense of wholeness and connection, even though there were d i f f i c u l t things happening. Case H Several months after the s p l i t of her marriage, H decided to go on a camping t r i p alone. One of her issues had been 70 never having or taking the time alone that she needed. Taking t h i s t r i p was a way of proving to herself that she could be alone and that she could take care of herse l f . She journeyed into the mountains to a lodge, where she stayed in a cabin by herse l f . She played with the idea of taking a backpacking t r i p alone, but was a f ra id of bears'. She turned down the opportunity of going with another woman and f i n a l l y made a decis ion to do i t alone. She found out what she could from the l o c a l people about how to handle herself in bear country. H set out on her t r i p using what she had learned. She walked as s i l e n t l y as she could and constantly scanned for po ten t ia l danger. Every once in a while fear would r i se up in her and g r ip her. Each time th i s happened she would move i t through her by reading something in her book of psalms or by meditating on the Hebrew alphabet. The second day out, H had been h ik ing for several hours in t h i s meditat ive, focused s ta te . Somewhere in that time she heard music. She turned to see where i t was coming from and rea l i zed that i t was coming from the h i l l s , from nature. She knew, in that moment, that music comes from the earth i t s e l f . Everything in the universe has i t s song. After a time the music faded and she continued with her h ike . H doesn't remember l i v i n g in a place of fear after that moment. She spent several days at the lake at the top of the mountain and then returned. On her return f l i g h t home, H found herself profoundly affected by the logging she 71 saw on the mountains. She f e l t phys ica l pain for the scarr ing of nature. THE INTERVIEWS The i n i t i a l interviews were between one and two hours in length. The co-researchers talked of the importance of sharing the i r experiences, and the importance of studies done in t h i s f i e l d . They t o l d the i r s to r ies with a seriousness and an involvement that was portrayed in the i r voices and mannerisms. At times they were very a l i v e , joyfu l and animated, showing del ight in what they had experienced. At other times, the i r voices were quiet and quivered as they talked of a moving moment. There was often a struggle for words as they searched for an accurate descr ip t ion of the i r experiences. The co-researchers, in the i r i nd iv idua l ways, r e l i ved the experience in the t e l l i n g . They had joyfu l faces and glowing eyes as they t a lked . There were long s i lences as they focused inward and re-experienced the i r spec ia l moments. For S, the r e l i v i n g of her experience through the t e l l i n g was powerful. She f e l t again the feel ings in her body of pain , longing, and joy, and her tears were once again tears of release and happiness. S appeared to use the interview to contact her experience and again fee l i t s hea l ing . By the end 72 of the interview, she was calmer and was speaking in a stronger vo ice . The va l i da t i on interviews were between one and two hours in length. They occurred within eight months of the i n i t i a l in terviews. The co-researchers were given copies of the i r t r anscr ip t s and the themes two weeks before the interview. The co-researchers were exci ted by the second interview. They were very appreciat ive of the fact that others had sensed the same themes and f e l t a common bond with them. The a i r was one of cooperation and co l l abo ra t i on . There was on-going dialogue as the ra t ionale used in a r r i v i n g at the themes was explained. The process was one of c l a r i f i c a t i o n and expansion of the meaning of the experience. The co-researchers were relaxed, open, and w i l l i n g to share. They seemed pleased to be involved in the va l ida t ion process and were straightforward and h e l p f u l . The va l ida t ion interview with H was interrupted by an unhappy event. Her dog was h i t by a car and k i l l e d . As we moved the dog into the yard, H, in tears, repeated several times that i t was good we'd been t a lk ing about her experience and that th i s was how she used i t , for strength and comfort at times l i k e t h i s . The interview was completed the fol lowing week. G was very exci ted at the beginning of the second interview and began sharing her thoughts immediately. At the 73 end of the interview she brought out wine and cheese. For her, an important part of the process was a celebrat ion of the sharing and of the work that was being done. S was very anxious to ta lk about what the i n i t i a l interview and r e l i v i n g her experience had meant to her. What was important for her was sharing her journey, and, in so doing, further c l a r i f y i n g the meaning of her experience. Changes were made according to the input received from the co-researchers as they discussed and elaborated on the themes. I t was pointed out that the language used in the descr ip t ion of the context of the experience and the early themes d id not allow for the more pos i t ive experiences, such as c h i l d b i r t h , or for freely chosen s i t ua t ions , even though these might also be d i f f i c u l t and painful experiences. These dif ferent p o s s i b i l i t i e s were included in the f i n a l descr ip t ion of the themes. When discussing the theme e n t i t l e d "A sense of u n i v e r s a l i t y , " some of the co-researchers f e l t that i t was more than that , more than fee l ing the interconnectedness of the universe. I t was a sense of having touched the Absolute. This was included in the descr ip t ion and the t i t l e of the theme was changed to "A sense of having touched something more." There were discussions around the themes "Happiness," "Peacefulness" and "Beauty." It was decided that these themes 74 should encompass a range of f ee l ing , as each one was experienced in a d i f ferent way by each co-researcher. For example, "One feels a deep sense of peace" was changed to "Some w i l l experience a quiet calm while others feel a deep sense of peace." The f i n a l theme was o r i g i n a l l y e n t i t l e d , "A sense of l i v i n g with a d u a l i t y , " and described one as l e f t o s c i l l a t i n g between two worlds, the s p i r i t u a l and the ear th ly , and s t ruggl ing to bring the two together without s a c r i f i c i n g one for the other. This theme brought much d iscuss ion . Upon closer explorat ion with the co-researchers, during which they further described and c l a r i f i e d the i r experiences, i t was discoverd that there were ac tua l ly two themes occurr ing. F i r s t of a l l , one finds oneself increas ingly moving towards environments where one can feel free to be and to l i v e out one's personal t ru th . This helps to el iminate the struggle that occurs when one finds oneself in nonreceptive environments and having to protect the experience. A theme, "A sense of the need for supportive environments" was formulated. The f i n a l theme became "A sense of l i f e being more." One feels c a l l e d or d i rected to bring more into perception, to r ea l i ze more of the t ru th , and to l i v e out t h i s t r u th . One recognizes one's personal journey of discovery and l i v e s in a state of openness and quest ioning. 75 A l l of the co-researchers v e r i f i e d each theme as being a part of the i r experience and further suggested the changes described above. These changes were incorporated into the f i n a l descr ip t ion of the themes. THE THEMES The themes were formulated through the process of a protocol analys is done according to C o l a i z z i ' s method. This process involved becoming very fami l ia r with the ind iv idua l s to r ies (protocols) and, through d i s c i p l i n e d r e f l e c t i o n , ext rac t ing s ign i f i can t statements. These were wri t ten on f i l e cards. A meaning was formulated for each s ign i f i can t statement. The i m p l i c i t meanings were drawn out and made e x p l i c i t . Cards with s imi l a r formulated meanings were grouped together. This grouping process was repeated and the groups of formulated meanings that were s imi l a r were c lus tered together to form a theme. This theme had to be true to a l l of the co-researchers ' experiences. Each story might be l ikened to a va r i a t i on of a theme. Underlying the differences i s a common thread running across the s t o r i e s . The meaning of some s ign i f i can t statements was e x p l i c i t and the theme easy to formulate. "My net impression was one of the strength tha t ' s there to support you when you need i t . " "I'm not alone here in the universe." 76 "Total acceptance, t o t a l understanding, love l i k e I 've never known." "What I got was th i s tremendous sense of a f f i rmat ion ." "I got strength." In th i s case, the co-researchers f e l t supported, strengthened and affirmed. The formulated theme was "A sense of being supported and empowered." Other themes were more d i f f i c u l t to formulate as the meaning was more i m p l i c i t in the data. " I t ' s sort of l i k e a maturing experience." " I t ' s changed me." "I found my own growth and my own spontaneity." The impl ica t ion here i s that as a resul t of the experience one changes, grows and matures. One becomes more than what one was. "It acts more l i k e get t ing born, l i k e coming out of the uterus, the sickroom being a big uterus." "For me i t was quite t o t a l l y new. It was l i k e a r eb i r th experience, a coming out of the dark and becoming new." " I t ' s a l l new." In these statements one experiences the world and oneself as new. One has a sense of beginning. The experience i s l i k e r e b i r t h . The essence of the meaning of these two groups of statements i s s i m i l a r . Because one has had an experience of touching something more, one feels that one i s more than what 77 one was. This might involve ei ther feelings of newness or maturing. The f i n a l formulation of the theme was "A sense of an e levat ion in one's nature." The themes should be viewed as the common threads that run through the diverse experiences of the co-researchers. The experience, as a whole, has been broken into parts (themes), examined c lose ly and described. However, the themes must not be looked on as separate unto themselves. They are parts of a whole and occur in the context of each other. The themes are grouped into c lus te rs that reveal the experience as c l e a r l y as poss ib le . They are organized according to the meaning they hold for the co-researchers. An attempt was made to follow an order, but th i s var ies with the i nd iv idua l experience. The themes often occur together or overlap each other. They are int imately related to each other, forming interconnected parts of a whole. The length and depth of involvement of a co-researcher with a theme w i l l a lso vary according to the i n d i v i d u a l , but each theme accurately represents the experience of each of the co-researchers. Clusters of Themes Before the Experience 1. A sense of being consumed by the issue. 2. A sense of something more. 78 3. A sense of being drawn. 4. A sense of being in i s o l a t i o n . 5. A sense of being deeply involved and in tent . 6. A sense of g iv ing in to the f u l l experience of one's fee l ings . 7. A sense of openness. During the Experience 1. A recognit 2. A sense of 3. A sense of 4. A sense of 5. A sense of 6. A sense of 7. A sense of 8. A sense of 9. A sense of 10. A sense of 1 1 . A sense of 12. A sense of ion of being within the experience, the involvement of one's t o t a l being, i n t u i t i v e understanding, contact with something more, awe and naturalness, being supported and empowered, happiness. peacefulness. beauty. the experience gradually fading, i n e f f a b i l i t y . being honoured and blessed. After the Experience 1. A recognit ion of emerging from the experience changed. 2. A sense of having gained a new l eve l of perception. 3. A sense of reconnecting with l i f e at a deeper l e v e l . 4. A recognit ion that the experience becomes a l i v e d out t ru th . 5. A sense of an elevat ion in one's nature. 6. A sense of opposit ion resolved. 7. A sense of the enduring qua l i t y of the experience. 8. A sense of the ultimate wisdom of the experience. 9. A sense of humil i ty and of worthiness. 10. A sense that one must be protect ive of the experience. 11. A sense of the need for supportive environments. 12. A sense of l i f e being more. 79 Descript ion of the Themes The Context of the Experience: This experience occurs in the context of one facing a challenge of existence. For some people th i s challenge i s a momentous turning point , a p i v o t a l place, where one i s undergoing a t r a n s i t i o n . This point of t r an s i t i on might involve a pos i t ive experience. For G, i t was pregnancy and the b i r t h of her f i r s t c h i l d . "I was very joyous at being pregnant. I f e l t quite confident in having the baby. And when I started having contractions I f e l t very good about that . I wasn't the least b i t worried. In fact , I f e l t l i k e I was doing what I was meant to do." Another's s i tua t ion might involve much emotional pa in . C describes herself as being "imprisoned in concrete for so many years," her sense of stuckness was so complete. "Everything was as I had learned at my mother's knee, so to say. How to behave with people and what to say in the r ight s i tua t ions , perfec t ly mannered and a l l the res t . Whereas the rea l person underneath t h i s a l l was crying out . . . more than crying out. I mean I had sunk so low I was looking up at the bottom." C f e l t she was being torn apart. She could readi ly re la te to a news story of the day describing how an astronaut on a space walk had been cut a d r i f t . "[He was] f loa t ing in the universe, 80 u n t i l of course h is body would just d i e . The despair that that man must have f e l t I can t o t a l l y understand. . . . That was exactly how I f e l t , that death was imminent. . . . I was desperate and there was no l i g h t at the end of the tunnel ." Other people f ind themselves facing a major problem that l i f e has thrust upon them, where the i r experience might be one of agonizing pain , intense fear, depression or a l i e n a t i o n . At the breakup of her marriage, H made a decis ion to be gentle with herself and to t rust her inner voice as to what she needed. "It was a big decis ion to take a camping t r i p on my own. . . . At times in my marriage and the s p l i t of my marriage, an ongoing issue for me had been never having or taking the kind of time and space to myself I f e l t I needed." H needed to know that she could be alone and be okay. "I needed to f ind out i f I could be by myself and take care of myself." She explains that on the camping t r i p her fear to do th i s was " r e a l l y embodied in the bear, which u l t imate ly i s death." For S, several issues came together at once and she found herself overwhelmed. She mentions her fa ther ' s death which had occurred the previous year, a suicide attempt she'd made several years e a r l i e r , Passover time and the rek ind l ing of her Jewish heri tage, a hur t fu l disagreement with her facul ty advisor over her work, and a decis ion by her husband, from whom she was separated but s t i l l cared for , to move east. "I 81 was going through a real down time and I couldn ' t r e a l l y understand what was happening to me. I ' d never been through anything before exactly l i k e that and I was fee l ing more and more down." One might attempt to meet t h i s challenge in many ways. One person might deny or ignore what i s happening. Another might struggle desperately to maintain con t ro l , and yet another might attempt to remain r a t iona l and a n a l y t i c a l and r i se above the problem. C describes herself as "image-keeping." Her l i f e was pretense. "[I was] pretending that the problems d idn ' t ex is t in order to carry on what was expected of me as a wife, mother and c i t i z e n . . . . I was behaving in a manner that was expected of me, a presentation of behaviour patterns that I was to l i v e up to . " Some might attempt to meet the issue head on. For H, i t was a matter of developing her connection with he r se l f . "I wanted to push the l i m i t s of my strength and test i t more. . . . I wanted to take my e x i s t e n t i a l challenge of existence and concretize i t . " Another way one might deal with d i f f i c u l t y i s to become i l l . G describes her experience r ight after the assassinat ion of President Kennedy. " I ' d been very depressed. . . . I got s ick and I just d idn ' t seem to get w e l l . A l l I had was a heavy sinus in fec t ion , but I kept running a fever, and I had to take a n t i b i o t i c s . . . . 1 couldn ' t seem to p u l l myself out 82 of i t . " But no matter how one attempts to help oneself, or over what period of time, the struggle continues. At best, one can succeed only to a cer ta in point and the essence of the problem remains. At worst, one feels hopelessly stuck and so overwhelmed by the problem that one feels one's very existence i s threatened. BEFORE THE EXPERIENCE 1. A sense of being consumed by the issue The challenge or problem becomes i n t ens i f i ed or heightened by some event and one becomes steeped in the issue. I t i s as i f a l l facets converge and the problem i s brought into overwhelming focus. For S, her sense of disconnection and a l i ena t ion were heightened by the events of that spr ing. Even the time of year, the spr ing, brought associat ions with Passover and the Easter story which i s "death and r e b i r t h . " S f e l t that her struggle was l inked with that . "It seemed to me I was l i v i n g out something l i k e that . . . but i t was almost l i k e I was l i v i n g i t out in a very personal way." In the face of a l l of t h i s , S f e l t l o s t . "I just d idn ' t know who I was or where I was going anymore, and I came to a point where I just could not do anything." 83 The attempt C made to help herself was to attend a weekend retreat on meditat ion. "I had the sensation that everybody was normal but myself. Why were they able to laugh spontaneously and joke with each other? I t was a very obvious non-pretense and I having done thea t r i ca l s a l l my l i f e . . . I was envious that people could feel as relaxed and animated. . . . A l l the negative feel ings I was experiencing in reference to that especia l weekend were almost heightened because the envy was at i t s peak." C was t o t a l l y focused, t o t a l l y consumed by th i s issue. "I could sort of feel myself crying ins ide , c ry ing for th i s person that was imprisoned and yet t h i s outer person who was going through a l l the outer manifestations of looking joyfu l . . . was just a wonderful performance, but I was not able to help the inner person." Both S and C experienced a sense of stuckness, powerlessness and a l i ena t ion that l e f t them feel ing unsupported and alone. Some people might take a more act ive role and place themselves in a s i tua t ion to heighten the issue purposefully, as H d i d . While on the camping t r i p , H decided to go backpacking alone. Her experience of fear was heightened even more by the h ik ing t r i p . "Every once in a while fear would just f l a re up i n s ide . " Everything she did was designed to deal with th i s fear. H was able to continue s t r i v i n g in her pa r t i cu l a r manner to meet the demands of the s i t u a t i o n . 84 It i s not whether one frames the issue in terms of stuckness and powerlessness, as opposed to s t r i v i n g that matters. In a l l cases one does what one i s able to do or has to do, but the issue continues to dominate one's being and to consume one's energy and a t t en t ion . 2. A sense of something more In the midst of t h i s issue, one desperately wants to re ly on something e l se . One has the sense that one cannot do i t a l l , that one cannot f i x the problem d i r e c t l y . H t r i e d to deal with her fear by meditating on the Hebrew l e t t e r s and reading from her Book of Psalms. "I would take out my Book of Psalms whenever I wanted to . I d idn ' t question myself about i t , l i k e t h i s i s stupid to be scared. And I ' d l e t i t f a l l open at random. I t ' s sort of l i k e an orac le . That 's what I need to read r ight then. There would always be some very powerful message." To carry on with the hike , H used what strength she had and then looked elsewhere for more. "I was tuning in to the God wi th in and using every too l I could to go beyond the smallness of my fear ." C was not able to help her inner se l f and in her desperation was crying out ins ide , "Dear God help me." In her exhaustion, after hours of c ry ing , her sense of need for something more was at i t s height . "Oh my God I 've blown i t . 85 How could I have done th i s to myself? How did I get into th i s space? What do I do? Where w i l l I go? I mean, who w i l l I ask?" For S, the need for something more was powerful. When she f i r s t began to feel overwhelmed she paid much at tent ion to dreams. "I think what I was hoping for was some kind of dream that would give me a sense of d i r e c t i o n . I d id get that ." Later , S describes her longing. "What do I want? A connection with s p i r i t . That 's what I want, nothing else r e a l l y matters." Out of t h i s longing to re ly on something other than oneself, one begins to think that there might be something more than i s presently recognized and ava i lab le in one's l i f e . 3. A sense of being drawn There comes a point where one can struggle no longer and one allows oneself to surrender c o n t r o l . S struggled with her work and her feel ings without making any progress. "I found I wasn't able to work and I had to stop. I just came to a point where I could not do anything." In the midst of the large s o c i a l gathering, where C f e l t at the height of her s t ruggle, she could no longer carry out her "charade" while she conversed with a f r i end . "She just made an observation, but as i t passed me by i t h i t something 86 deep wi th in and i t was l i k e an inner explosion. I just f e l l apart ." One has a sense of entering into a process, but does t h i s without knowledge of the process and without e f fo r t . Entry i s unplanned and involuntary. One stops s t ruggl ing and begins to react as i f i n s t i n c t i v e l y , g iv ing in to a natural i n c l i n a t i o n and going with one's fee l ings . For S, her i n a b i l i t y to work and sense of withdrawal were d isconcer t ing . "I couldn ' t r e a l l y understand what was happening to me. I ' d never been through anything before exactly l i k e that ." During c h i l d b i r t h , G had a sense of being a part of a process. "I r e a l l y d idn ' t have any cont ro l over [the process] , I just had to go with [ i t ] . . . I don't know what i t came out of. There's no way of knowing." H worked hard at put t ing hersel f into an environment where she could experience being alone and facing the unknown. "[I d id i t ] without knowing how that was going to happen, so in that sense, the expectations weren't sharply defined. If a l l I ' d done was stayed in the woods and come back, knowing I ' d cut my own wood for a week and painted some p ic tu res , I ' d have known I could be by myself and take care of myself. . . . I t wasn't l i k e I was t ry ing to create that spec ia l experience. I was just t ry ing to keep myself above fear ." I t i s as i f one i s being drawn or led into something e l se , and one does t h i s without quest ioning, doing what one 87 has to do. While on her h ike , H experienced her fear and dealt with i t in several ways. "I d idn ' t question myself about i t , l i k e th i s i s stupid to be scared." H did what she had to do. S also d id what she had to to , in her case, withdrawing from everything and everybody. "At f i r s t i t was i n s t i n c t i v e . I just d id not know what I was doing. I was l ed , just l ed , in a very kind of i n s t i n c t i v e way." 4. A sense of being in i s o l a t i o n One places oneself, e i ther purposefully or unconsciously in i s o l a t i o n , removed from the mainstream of l i f e . H a c t i v e l y sought time alone. "It was a big decis ion to take a camping t r i p on my own. . . . I went and stayed in a cabin by myself for four or f ive days." H took th i s even further when she turned down an opportunity to go backpacking with another woman. "I went through a big decis ion . . . and I thought about i t and just d idn ' t fee l just r ight about going with her." She chose to face her ultimate fear, the bears, alone. S also chose to i so la te herse l f . "I wanted s i l ence . I f e l t I had to be alone. . . . I guess I spent three weeks just being alone." When G experienced depression after the assassinat ion of Kennedy, she i so la ted herself by becoming i l l . " I ' d s i t by my 88 bedroom window and look out of the window." She describes herself as being "confined p h y s i c a l l y , emotionally and mental ly." During her c h i l d b i r t h experience, confinement was out of necess i ty . For G, " i t was a very lonely experience" as she spent a long time alone in the labour room. One experiences a sense of withdrawal from everything and everybody. This i s characterized by focusing in and paying at tent ion to one's inner world. For S, the sense of a l i ena t ion and the need to focus were strong. "I wanted a connection because I was fee l ing so cut off and a l iena ted . . . . I f e l t I had to be alone. I had to be s p i r i t and I had to get away from external th ings ." For C, the sense of i s o l a t i o n and a l i ena t ion occurred in the midst of a large group of people. "I f e l t l i k e someone looking in at an aquarium. I wasn't a par t ic ipant in the body of people. I f e l t very much l i k e an observer and that l i f e was passing me as a parade. But these people were behaving l i k e people, and I d idn ' t fee l l i k e a people. I f e l t myself, the ' s e l f , ' had been imprisoned in concrete for so many years. . . . I was inc red ib ly alone." From th i s i so la ted p o s i t i o n , C was powerfully aware of her inner world. "I could fee l myself crying ins ide , crying for t h i s person that was imprisoned and yet th i s outer person that was going through a l l the outer manifestat ions." 89 5 . A s e n s e o f b e i n g d e e p l y f o c u s e d and i n t e n t One i s i n an i n t e n t f o c u s e d s t a t e w h i c h i s m a i n t a i n e d o v e r a p e r i o d o f t i m e . D u r i n g h e r i l l n e s s , G was c o n f i n e d t o h e r b e d r o o m . She s p e n t many weeks s i t t i n g i n a c h a i r l o o k i n g o u t o f t h e w indow. " A n d I w a s n ' t e v e n aware a t f i r s t r e a l l y , o f n o t i c i n g t h i s t r e e . . . and t h e n g r a d u a l l y , I r e a l i z e d I was l o o k i n g a t t h e b r a n c h o f t h e t r e e . " I t i s a s i f o n e ' s s e n s e s o r e m o t i o n s a r e h e i g h t e n e d and one i s t o t a l l y a b s o r b e d by t h i s e x p e r i e n c e . F o r C , t h e weekend o f t h e r e t r e a t f i l l e d h e r w i t h e n v y , t e n s i o n and f e a r . " A l l t h e n e g a t i v e f e e l i n g s t h a t I was e x p e r i e n c i n g i n r e f e r e n c e t o t h a t e s p e c i a l weekend were a l m o s t h e i g h t e n e d b e c a u s e t h e e n v y was a t i t s p e a k . . . . I j u s t k e p t g e t t i n g w o r s e a n d w o r s e t h r o u g h o u t t h e f i r s t day and a h a l f . " T h i s d e p t h o f f o c u s was i n t e n s i f i e d a s C e x p e r i e n c e d t h e " i n n e r e x p l o s i o n " where she f e l l a p a r t . " T h e w e e p i n g went on f o r f o u r and a h a l f h o u r s , so I l e t i t h a p p e n . . . . I t ' s a t o t a l i n v o l v e m e n t . . . . I was so i n v o l v e d w i t h t h i s i m p l o s i o n , where many o f my p a s t p r o b l e m s I c o u l d see p a s s i n g b e f o r e my e y e s and d i s s i p a t i n g . " T h i s l e t t i n g go was n o t e n o u g h , h o w e v e r , a n d t h e f o c u s was m a i n t a i n e d . " A n d y e t I r e c a l l t o o , g o i n g t o bed s t i l l t r o u b l e d . " H p l a n n e d s e v e r a l ways o f d e a l i n g w i t h h e r f e a r on t h e b a c k p a c k i n g t r i p . She w a l k e d s i l e n t l y . " Y o u g e t y o u r body . 90 . . very centered to walk l i k e that ." She was "always scanning v i s u a l l y and staying focused that way." To keep her from being scared she would meditate on the Hebrew alphabet. "I was very focused and in tent . The whole thing was a real meditation for me. I must have been h ik ing i'n that space for at least a couple of hours." S found her focus heightening over time. "At f i r s t i t was a matter of just being there and focusing on i t . . . then becoming more and more focused, focusing more c lose ly as time went by and .paying more and more a t tent ion to myself in a deep way. " 6. A sense of g iv ing in to the f u l l experience of one's feel ings One gives in to the f u l l experience of the problem. In th i s experience of l e t t i n g go, feel ings are expressed and vented. Emotion i s allowed to grow to a ful lness as one enters into and experiences one's fee l ings . This happened for C as she was t a lk ing to a f r i end . "While we chatted, something she remarked just happened to loosen up. I t struck a nerve and I started to weep. I just f e l l apart. I was in such pa in . " C experienced a "parade of past memories, ugly experiences, hideous conversations, threatening s i tua t ions" which went on for several hours. "The very shattering sobbing 91 continued, almost wondering i f you'd be able to draw another breath." C f e l t compassion for herse l f . "[I was] kind of fee l ing sorry for the poor person that had been through that . I t was l i k e watching a death of myself in those years. It was l i k e seeing that poor l i t t l e thing die again and more of th i s sobbing, a gr ieving kind of t h ing . " C found th i s experience strengthening. "It was r e a l l y a purging. I was now able to unite the two halves of myself just a l i t t l e b i t . Yet I r e c a l l too going to bed s t i l l t roubled. I r e c a l l the physica l pos i t ion when I crawled into bed just a l l r o l l e d up in f e t a l pos i t ion and s t i l l sobbing. And I dare say, I sobbed myself to s leep." For H, i t was a matter of consciously put t ing herself into a s i t ua t ion where she could experience the depth of her fee l ings , in t h i s case her fear. "I walked into the center of my fear, put t ing myself into something that would provoke i t at a very deep l e v e l . And yet the exercise was of not g iv ing in to i t t o t a l l y because had I given in to i t , I wouldn't have gone out on the h ike . I ' d have turned around midway. So i t was an exercise in creat ing a new emotional experience so that in some way I ' d have mastery over i t . . . . But I used tools to help me. . . . So I would be for a moment paralyzed by that fear, because I ' d entered into i t . I f u l l y experienced i t in moments, then moved past i t . Every time I f e l t that wave of fear I ' d read a psalm or move i t through me." 92 S profoundly experienced her sense of disconnection from the important areas of her l i f e . "I read something in T .S . E l l i o t and i t was these l ines in p a r t i c u l a r : 'Suffer me not to be separated and l e t my cry come unto thee. ' I wanted something so badly. I t had to do with my father. I t had to do with L ' s l eav ing . I t had to do with my work. I t had to do with . . . a sense of . . . reconnection with something. . . . I remember doing a whole lo t of crying at t h i s time, and i t ' s not something that I do e a s i l y . It was sadness. And I think i t was probably hea l ing . I t was just a lo t of tears ." While in labour, during the de l ivery of her f i r s t c h i l d , G f u l l y entered into the b i r t h process. "I was very joyous at being pregnant. . . . I f e l t quite confident in having the baby and when I s tarted having contractions I f e l t very good about that . I wasn't the least b i t worried. In fact , I f e l t l i k e I was doing what I was meant to do. I was doing the breathing that I ' d learned to do. That was almost unconscious." Because G f e l t she was " i n unison with some whole natural process," she was able to l e t go and f u l l y experience g iv ing b i r t h . 7 . A sense of openness 93 As one gives up cont ro l and f u l l y expresses one's fee l ings , one experiences a state of openness. One feels exposed or revealed and simply allows what i s to be. S f e l t "opened up." I t was l i k e she was saying, "Here i s a l l I am. Here i s what I am. I can just be and not do anything e l s e . " In t h i s vulnerable yet receptive state there in no longer any attempt to manage or cope. "I was aware of my incompleteness, my par t i a lness , that my being depends on something e l se . That 's part of the v u l n e r a b i l i t y . . . . I wanted something so badly. I was longing. I had a rea l sense of longing for a connection. . . . I t was more than a prayer. I t wasn't just a prayer. My whole l i f e was that ." One i s undistracted and t o t a l l y present. For S, what was important was "quietness and just a l l o w i n g . " For C, the experience after hours of cry ing was one of being "emotionally and mentally fatigued . . . just a limp d ishrag ." Her fee l ing of being l o s t , uncertain and in need of help was intense. She was vulnerable and open. "What's going to become of me? What's going to happen to me next? Where do I go from here? What a waste my l i f e has been. Can one begin again? I was at a t r a n s i t i o n point from being locked into concrete but not knowing how, what, where, why, when of my l i f e . . . j u s t , I 've blown i t . Is i t possible to r e b u i l d . . . . You're just l o s t . Here you are, t h i s l i t t l e b i rd tha t ' s been forced out of the nest and you don't know where to f l y . 94 You're unsure you can f l y . . . . Oh my God, I 've blown i t . What w i l l I do? Who w i l l I ask?" As H was placing herself in her fear and moving i t through her, she was aware of her v u l n e r a b i l i t y . "I was revealing myself to myself. There wasn't a lo t of s e l f - d e c e i t . You're reveal ing who you are in a l l that v u l n e r a b i l i t y . " H chose ways of dealing with her fear that, allowed her to simply "be" within her environment. She was t o t a l l y present. "I was already aware of how at one I was f ee l i ng . I t was l i k e that was r e a l l y what I was doing. To conquer my fear of the bears and to be unobtrusive meant becoming as much in harmony with my environment as I could . That was my r o l e , or my way of being there. . . . I was in a very peaceful state . . . as part of the meditat ion." DURING THE EXPERIENCE 1 . A recognit ion of being within the experience There i s a moment when the r e a l i t y of what one i s experiencing takes hold . As H was h ik ing in the mountains, she was maintaining her focused, meditative s ta te . "And somewhere during that period I heard music. I can ' t remember the f i r s t instant of i t . I remember the ful lness of i t . The most v i v i d part that I do remember i s the moment where I 95 recognized the largeness of what I was experiencing. . . . I t seemed l i k e i t was coming from outside of myself from the h i l l s . " As G sat by her bedroom window, she gradually r ea l i zed she was watching a pa r t i cu la r branch of the dogwood t ree . "And one day I had the sense . . . I could par t i c ipa te in the l i f e of that branch. I knew what i t was l i k e in the spr ing, what i t was l i k e in the f a l l , and what i t was l i k e now, a l l through the year. It was as i f I was the branch." The r e a l i z a t i o n occurred gradual ly . "Gradually opening my eyes, and gradually focusing and gradually entering into l i f e through that branch of the t ree . . . . I t ' s mainly v i s u a l imagery as I experience i t . " I t i s as i f one i s observing or witnessing the experience as wel l as being involved within i t , thus one might be absorbed by the experience and at the same time be aware of one's surroundings or the passage of time. S was both witness to and par t ic ipant in her experience with l i g h t . "What I f e l t was a presence. It was outside of me. I could see the l i g h t outside me. I could feel the presence outside me. I could feel something going on inside me and outside me at the same time." Even though deeply involved, S was s t i l l aware of her basic needs. "It f e l t l i k e i t was going on for a long time. At a ce r t a in point I thought i t ' s okay to get up. I needed to go to the bathroom. I r e a l l y needed to go. I d idn ' t want to 96 break th i s connection, but at a ce r ta in point , I thought I can get up." C was also very much observing what was happening as wel l as p a r t i c i p a t i n g in i t . Her descr ip t ion of what was happening was very c l e a r . "I remember waking, eyes wide open, just bang, but no s t a r t l e . My mind was in the room and very aware that i t was awake. But the body was f l a t out on i t s back, with a Cheshire gr in on i t s face and my hands folded, l i k e a pious sa in t , across my chest. I just had that quie t , put together f ee l i ng . And then of course I looked and there were these nine people, these bodies around my bed. Four of them I recognized and the f ive at the end of the bed, I d i d n ' t . . . . I t was the most marvelous f e e l i n g . " One has such a powerful sense of vividness and r e a l i t y , that one would never doubt or deny the experience. S accepts her experience as fac t . "I know th i s l i g h t , t h i s experience with l i g h t was a r e a l i t y . I could never deny that r e a l i t y . I t ' s a fact for me." H f e l t the vividness of the experience. "I d idn ' t doubt my experience. I t was too v i v i d for me to doubt. I t was very r e a l . I t d idn ' t feel l i k e I was imagining i t . It d idn ' t feel l i k e I was dreaming i t . It d idn ' t fee l l i k e a waking h a l l u c i n a t i o n . " For C, i t was the owning of the experience that was important. "I knew i t was mine and that i t was r e a l . " 97 2. A sense of the involvement of one's t o t a l being One's t o t a l being i s involved, focused and absorbed in what i s being experienced. H was "just too into i t , l i k e l i s t e n i n g to i t , to evaluate i t . . . . I t was so t o t a l . " For G, her " to ta l consciousness i s t o t a l l y focused and absorbed." One has the sense that a l l of one's s e l f , p h y s i c a l , mental, emotional and s p i r i t u a l , is- captivated by the experience. For S, the experience came in a t o t a l way. "It came in a t o t a l way. . . . I t was just going r ight through me, r ight through my whole mind, through my body, being blessed and affirmed and loved." One i s taken by the experience and can in no way manipulate i t . C f e l t the power of the experience. "I had the fee l ing that there was another force in the universe. I t was just beyond a c o n t r o l . I t was mesmerizing. I t was powerful. I t was t o t a l l y engrossing." 3. A sense of i n t u i t i v e understanding One i n t u i t i v e l y understands what i s happening, i n s t i n c t i v e l y knowing in the depths of one's being what the experience i s and means. S knew immediately what she was experiencing. "As soon as I f e l t i t , I had a sense of knowing 98 what i t was. I had a sense that th i s i s . . . that whatever th i s i s , i t ' s what I was looking for . I t ' s what I was wait ing fo r . " For C, knowing took the form of an inner recogni t ion . "It was a complete recognition of the r e a l i t y , the zeni th of t ruth in l i g h t , the zenith of wisdom, the zeni th of beauty. More an inner experience than an outer observation." For G, i t was also an inner i n t u i t i v e sense of knowing. " I t ' s my consciousness tha t ' s fee l ing i t . I t ' s a consciousness that doesn't reproduce i t s e l f somat ica l ly . . . . I don't doubt my own i n t u i t i o n . If i t doesn't make sense i t doesn't matter. I t doesn't have to come through the senses, in the sense of making sense v i s i b l y or audib ly ." For H, the understanding was immediate and complete. "I understood i n t u i t i v e l y , i n s t i n c t i v e l y , immediately that the music was coming from nature and that the music was coming from the h i l l s . . . . I understood in that moment when I was understanding whatever I was understanding, that music comes from everything." 4. A sense of contact with something more One has a sense of making contact with something more. For some, t h i s i s a sense of u n i v e r s a l i t y , a sense of the inter-connectedness of the universe. For others, i t i s the 99 sense of having touched an Absolute power. For a l l , i t i s a sense of a breaking through and contacting a power that i s Absolute and universe wide. One feels in unison with something bigger and that one belongs. For S, i t was the sense of the Absolute. "That's what I knew, that that was an Absolute Power." S experienced the sense of becoming part of something bigger, through the breaking down of the concept of outside and ins ide . "It was outside of me. I could see the l i g h t outside of me. I could feel that presence outside of me. I could feel something going on inside me and outside me at the same time. Like I was ins ide , l i k e I was within i t , l i k e I was just enfolded in i t . " C also "had the fee l ing that there was another force in the universe " and f e l t she had touched th i s force. "I touched the universe. I touched the face of God. I touched the l e v e l of creat ion which l i e s below the atomic l e v e l . " While G was g iv ing b i r t h , she had "a sense of being in unison with some whole natural process . . . part of something bigger that was happening." As the c h i l d was being born, G f e l t a part of a huge contract ion expansion experience. "There was t h i s feel ing of being caught in a cosmic rhythm. . . . I f e l t l i k e I was part of a cosmic rhythm. I t ' s happening outside of me and inside of me . . . but the inside-outs ide were not d i s t inguished . The inside-outside were together." 100 One experiences at profound depths the interconnectedness of the universe. For H, the experience was paradoxica l . "There's the universal paradox in that . . . my seeking to be f u l l y alone with myself. Of course as I was f u l l y alone and present in the moment without anything e lse , I was t o t a l l y connected. To ta l ly not alone. The in tens i ty of the completeness, the ful lness of the t ru th of the universe being connected . . . the ful lness of the experience of how connected the universe i s . " This sense of un ive r sa l i t y and of the Absolute both transcends the se l f and i s wi th in the s e l f . For S, the sense of connection was through the power that runs through everything. "The world becomes . . . instead of being fragmented, i t ' s l i k e c rea t ion . You're a part of i t and i t becomes a whole and you're partaking in i t . The connection i s not just with the wholeness of the world. That 's part of i t , but i t ' s a connection with God i f you want to use those terms, but with that Power. The Power i s there and i t ' s in everything and everybody. I t ' s l i k e a p a r t i c i p a t i o n . I t ' s l i k e a connection with the Power and everything i s connected." For G, the sense of jo in ing and un ive r sa l i t y occurred through transcending a b a r r i e r . "It was .as though I was the branch. "Whether th i s experience occurred within her or outside of her held no meaning for G. "There's no sharp difference between ins ide-outs ide . The bar r ie rs are gone. 101 Inside-outside are not meaningful, l i k e subject-object are not meaningful. The whole experience i s the o b l i t e r a t i o n of subject-object . . . . We become i d e n t i c a l to everything that i s . The ' i sness ' i s what's c h a r a c t e r i s t i c . " One i s marked with the sense that th i s i s a r e a l i t y that ex i s t s always, that i s simply there. C f e l t t h i s r e a l i t y was part of her. "It was just a very pleasant s igh t . You're pleased but you're neither surprised nor . . . because i t ' s part of you. They are there, always there . . . having had that experience of seeing what ex i s t s a l l the t ime." It was as i f they were around her bed saying, "We've not come to surprise you, or shock you, or encourage you, or be superior to you. I t ' s just another fact of l i f e and here we are." H also f e l t the r e a l i t y of her experience. "I was just witness to something that i s a r e a l i t y , tha t ' s always there . . . I bel ieve i t just tuned in and tuned out." For G, t h i s r e a l i t y i s always present but not always percept ib le . "An experience would sort of draw me in to some functions or way that things are happening that aren ' t usual ly percep t ib le . " 5 . A sense of awe and of naturalness One has a sense of awe, wonder and amazement at the richness and complexity of what i s , and yet one also feels the 1 02 naturalness, the s i m p l i c i t y and the normalcy of th i s existence. For H, the feel ings were of "the awesomeness of the universe" and amazement at the di f ferent music coming from di f ferent places . "The song emanating from creat ion i s always present, so i t i s completely na tura l . That was na tura l . What was unusual was my a b i l i t y to hear i t . This was, in a sense the ult imate natural experience. I t ' s the most na tura l , the most attuned to what i s in a c t u a l i t y . " For C, i t was a "wonderful, wonderful experience." But i t was also very na tura l . "It was neither exh i l a ra t ing nor f r ightening . It was very na tura l . I t belonged. This i s another fact of l i f e . " 6. A sense of being supported and empowered One feels that one i s supported, that one i s not alone in the universe. This support i s empowering in that one feels strengthened, affirmed, accepted, understood and loved. What C f e l t coming from the men around her bed was " to t a l understanding, t o t a l acceptance." For C, these feel ings were new. "Love l i k e I have never known. They looked at me, and my feel ings of that look were that I belonged, I was okay, I would make i t , I had a l l the ingredients . They respected me. There was l o t s of space f.or everybody." C found th i s eased her movement between "dancing above the world" and depression. 1 03 "I f e l t heightened, but in the middle . . . a n exquis i te fee l ing that was strengthening in the middle of my p o l a r i t i e s . This was strengthening where I wanted to l i v e . " The support C f e l t from the presence of these men gave her confidence. "They're looking out for me although I can' t perceive them r ight here. They are there. . . . I t ' s there for my support. So I can ' t go too far wrong. I'm going to get nudged by somebody." For G, feel ing a part of the cosmic rhythm gave her strength, e spec ia l ly when her baby d ied . "That gave me strength. I d id have a t e r r i b l e depression afterwards, but that fee l ing I remembered, and held on to that . . . . I t ' s the resul t of that feel ing that in a sense you're being supported by the ent i re cosmos. . . . My net impression was one of the strength that i s there to support you when you need i t . " For S, the support and aff i rmat ion came through her encounter with l i g h t . "It was an outpouring of love . . . . What I got was th i s tremendous sense of a f f i rmat ion . . . . I got strength. I d idn ' t need to be a f ra id of anything because there was a power that was so overwhelming and i t was love . " From her experience of hearing the music of creat ion H f e l t support. "I'm not alone here in the universe. . . . In f u l l y recognizing how unalone I was, there 's a supportiveness in that ." The a v a i l a b i l i t y of that support was strengthening to H. "Underneath or behind our fears and our suffering and 1 04 our single-mindedness i s a universe tha t ' s quite magical and beaut i ful and that tha t ' s ava i lab le to us." 7 . A sense of happiness For some th i s happiness takes the form of quiet contentment. For C, her experience brought "a very happy fee l ing . . . a happy fee l ing of contentment, more. It was a l l pos i t ive but not 'oh wow' . . . the t r a n q u i l i t y and contentment, return to the womb fee l ing , no problems, l i f e i s wonderful." For H, as she experienced hearing the music of the universe, the sense was one of a "deepness connected with good fortune." Others might be moved to tears and experience great joy . The happiness S f e l t showed i t s e l f in tears . "I was t a l k ing to the l i g h t and the tears just poured out of me. I t wasn't sadness. I f e l t th i s love . And I said I'm so happy and I c r i e d . I c r i e d and I said I'm happy." G experienced "a tremendous sense of wonder, and a sense of joy" at entering into the l i f e of the branch. Her joy s p i l l e d over into laughter. "And I laughed and sa id , ' I ' v e f a l l en in love with a t r e e ' . " 8. A sense of peacefulness 1 05 Some w i l l experience a quiet calm while others feel a deep sense of peace. C had "that quie t , put together feel ing . . . that comforted fee l ing" during her experience. For G, i t was "a tremendous sense of peace, very peaceful ," as she experienced l i f e through the branch. S f e l t the peacefulness in her body. "It was warmth. I could feel a sense of warmth in my arms and legs . It was l i k e my blood moving through my body. I t was a wonderful. . . . I t was a peaceful f ee l ing . I t was very peaceful ." 9. A sense of beauty Some w i l l be very moved by the beauty of the experience, while others experience a serene sense of beauty. For C, i t was an "inner feel ing of beauty, the ultimate in wisdom, and the ultimate in contentment and acceptance." S was struck by the beauty of the l i g h t . "The l i g h t was very, very beau t i fu l . I could see golden l i g h t . " For S, the experience i t s e l f went beyond beauty to "glory . I t ' s g lo r ious . I t ' s p a i n f u l . " G experienced the beauty of jo in ing with the branch. "It was as though I was the branch. And that was i l l o g i c a l l y very wonderful and beau t i fu l . . . . I t ' s most mysterious to me." 10. A sense of the•experience gradually fading 106 One i s aware that the experience gradually fades. As H l i s t ened to the music "after a time i t faded." G f e l t herself in the cosmic rhythm as she experienced contract ions , but " this disappeared, unfortunately." C experienced the people around her bed for a time. "They disappeared. I may have s lep t . I guess I d i d . " S was wi th in her experience for what seemed l i k e a long time. ' "At a ce r t a in point I thought i t ' s okay to get up. I needed to go to the bathroom. . . . I went back to bed and I slept for a couple of hours." In some instances, one might be aware of the measure of time and in others a l l sense of time i s l o s t . In ei ther case, one i s not concerned with time during the experience. It i s a spec ia l kind of time where the exquisi teness, not the length matters. H did not know " i f the experience las ted seconds or minutes." G did not know how long she experienced the sense of being caught in the cosmic rhythm. "I don't know. I r e a l l y don't know. I think my whole sense of time was completely screwed up." C also was not able to measure the time. "It could have been 20 minutes, i t may have been 30 seconds. I d idn ' t have a c lock . I would say probably the shorter than the longer. I t was the exquisiteness of the time, not the length of i t that mattered." 107 For S, what seemed unusual was that she knew how long the experience las ted . "I know exactly how long. That 's the strange th ing . It f e l t l i k e i t was going on for a long time. I looked at my watch when I f i r s t woke up. It was 3:45. This was 5:30. . . . I t was another kind of t ime." 11. A sense of i n e f f a b i l i t y One might be able to describe the experience f ac tua l l y , but one has d i f f i c u l t y descr ibing how one fee l s . The experience i s beyond words. S had a d i f f i c u l t time t a lk ing about her experience. "I'm having a rea l struggle for words. I t i s hard. I'm l e f t more with whatever i t i s tha t ' s inside me, the f ee l ing , or the l i v e d part and the words are hard to put to i t . " For G, her feel ings were "very-hard to describe. I t ' s almost i n e x p l i c a b l e . " G found she had d i f f i c u l t y f inding words and had to use the language ava i lab le to her. "I sa id , ' I ' v e f a l l en in love with a t r ee , ' but tha t ' s the c losest I could come to saying how I f e l t . " Words don't seem to f i t , and in a sense make judgements about the experience. G f e l t she los t something by t a l k ing about i t . " I t ' s hard to t a lk about in some ways. Probably you lose a lo t about i t . You gain i n t e l l e c t u a l insight but you lose some of the awesomeness of the experience. You bring 108 i t down to an ordinary l e v e l . " H f e l t amazement and spoke of a sense of being blessed, but was uncomfortable with those words. "I mean those are almost l i k e judgements. . . . The word beauty seems evalua t ive . . . . I mean these words of i n t u i t i v e , you're not th inking in that kind of l o g i c a l way. I never evaluated i t . " Although she was concerned that th i s language would evoke preconceptions and judgements, H found herself using the language ava i lab le to her, r e l i g ious language, to describe the experience. " I t ' s hard to ta lk about i t in other than th i s r e l i g i o u s , metaphorical language. I t ' s l o v e l y , beau t i fu l , poetic language so i t works to communicate the f ee l i ng . But in our contemporary world i t ' s so easy to write that off with our contemporary understandings or misunderstandings of what a r e l i g i o u s experience means, wri t ten off as r e l i g i o u s fana t ics . I t [the language] i s n ' t necessary. The experience would s t i l l be what i t i s even i f I d idn ' t have t h i s language, th i s God and r e l i g ious language. That 's just convenient to me because i t ' s apt. I t ' s apt language because i t ' s so metaphorical and i t ' s associated with such big thought concepts." For C, i t was "more an inner experience that an outer observation . . . beyond descr ip t ion . . . a hard place to descr ibe ." C also had d i f f i c u l t y with language and evaluat ion. "But i t wasn't an emotional language. It was the language of the universe. These are things. This i s r e a l . 109 So i t wasn't to be traded by a cul ture to say, 'Because you're seeing t h i s , i t means tha t . ' I t was a complete recognit ion of the r e a l i t y . " 12. A sense of being honoured and blessed One feels that one has been given a very specia l g i f t , something that i s sacred, and so feels honoured and blessed. S f e l t she had been given something s p e c i a l . "I had that encounter and i t was l i k e a g i f t . I think i t was something that was given to. me. . . . I t was just an incredib le fee l ing of being blessed. I t was just going r ight through me being blessed." For G, i t was a fee l ing that she had been made s p e c i a l . "You feel rare, chosen, enabled to experience things many people are not open to . " C had a s imi la r experience. "I got a sense of being elected, selected, chosen, f ingered. . . . I t i s a b l i s s f u l feel ing to think I was one of those who was given the opportunity to have universal knowledge." H also f e l t her specia l experience had been a g i f t . "I knew i t was a very specia l experience . . . l i k e I have been pr ivy to a very specia l experience . . . the fee l ing of having been honoured . . . blessed, that I was allowed that opportunity in my l i f e . It was, you know, a g i f t . I was just 1 1 0 doing what I was doing and there i t was, a surpr ise . So in that sense i t ' s l i k e a g i f t . I t ' s a surpr ise , but I wasn't surpr ised. I t was a surprise in the sense of an unexpected g i f t . " AFTER THE EXPERIENCE 1. A recognit ion of emerging from the experience changed One emerges from the experience changed. One has a sense of being d i f f e ren t , more resolved, integrated, and whole. After her experience, C both f e l t and looked changed. "I went to the mirror and I looked and there was a l l t h i s beaming on my face, the eyes a l l upturned and t h i s natural smile. . . . I d idn ' t think anything about the night before. There was no negative. I just was brim f u l l of good fee l ings , wonderful mind, wonderful set of emotions, happy, happy fee l ings . " C f e l t more integrated and whole. "The union of the inner se l f and the outer se l f was a very happy marriage. . . . I t was easier to be. I t was easy. I just went on e a s i l y , being involved where I was, only now i t was r e a l . I loved my l i f e . " S also f e l t and looked changed. "I remember looking in the mirror and seeing myself white, just l i k e dead white and my eyes were just sh in ing . I looked r e a l l y changed. I f e l t very, very vulnerable . The f i r s t few days I f e l t a l i t t l e b i t 111 shaky." For S, the fee l ing of wholeness came through her new a b i l i t y to reconnect. "I went for a walk in the park. During the walk I remember fee l ing much more connected. . . . This was a matter of days I was reconnecting with people. . . . I was able to reconnect with my d i r ec t ion in l i f e again ." For G, the journey to resolut ion and wholeness was one of opening out. " I t ' s opening out, i f you can open up to anything . . . a branch of a tree i s the beginning, then I can wri te again. I began to wri te down my pain and my sorrow and my anguish. I wrote a story about the assassinat ion . . . and the experience was prel iminary to being able to do that , to f i n a l l y do something and p u l l myself out of that . And then I wrote a ser ies of s to r ies which helped me to uncover layers and layers of pa in . I t was using the short story form to transform the pain and the anger and the anxiety into something beau t i fu l . I was working through a l o t of anxiety about death and the s to r ies helped me to do that , to transform death into l i f e by w r i t i n g . " For H, the experience of change was an inner one and d idn ' t show outwardly. "Sometimes the most profound experience or changes don't show some apparent outward change." H became more who she was, more whole by expanding her l i m i t s and going into her fear. "My l i m i t s have been stretched. My stopping place, where I stop myself i s expanded. I now know I can go farther than I thought. When 1 1 2 my fears come up, I sometimes d e f i n i t e l y get stuck in them but the edges of how I define myself are greater. When I make myself out to be less able, less competent, less beaut i ful in every sense of the word, I know that th i s i s one of the experiences I use to remind myself that that i s an i l l u s i o n . This experience i s truer and deeper than the be l i e f s that come out of fear ." 2. A sense of having gained a new l e v e l of perception * One has a sense of having broken through or been moved through a bar r ie r and of having opened up a new l e v e l of perception that wasn't previously ava i l ab l e . One senses that r e a l i t y i s broader and deeper than i s normally perceived and one finds oneself more affected by th i s broader r e a l i t y . For G, seeing the larger r e a l i t y was very e x c i t i n g . "What I have done i s crashed through th i s b a r r i e r . . . . The here i s much bigger, r e a l i t y i s much greater than we usually are open to understanding. . . . Once one has a glimpse of the bigger r e a l i t y , t ha t ' s very e x c i t i n g . " For G, there was also the r e a l i z a t i o n that normal r e a l i t y i s very l i m i t e d . "We have these perceptive experiences of i t that make us r ea l i ze that r e a l i t y i s normally very l i m i t e d and narrow and that we confine ourselves to a pret ty small r e a l i t y . . . . I t ' s a lso again th i s sense of r e a l i t y . . . that I became aware of how 1 1 3 much by focusing on myself, I l i m i t . . . that i f I would look at branches more often." H also had the sense of opening up a new l eve l of perception. "I 've cracked open a l e v e l in my own perceptions of what's r ea l and poss ib le . . . . I have a deeper sense, not just an i n t e l l e c t u a l be l i e f . . . my r e a l i t y comes from a deeper l i v e d experience of what the p o s s i b i l i t i e s are for people." For S, the experience gave her a transcendent perspect ive. "When you have th i s experience i t ' s very u p l i f t i n g and you get into a kind of transcendent perspective and that i s very r e a l . " Because one i s more aware of these deeper l e v e l s , one i s more open to experiencing at these l e v e l s . For H, i t was be l iev ing there were other l eve l s yet to be experienced. "I'm just as sure that there 's some other l e v e l that I haven't seen yet . I bel ieve that there 's probably even something deeper than I 've experienced here. . . . That 's one of the experiences in my l i f e where I'm open to be l iev ing the unbel ievable ." For S, t h i s new openness was strengthening. "The difference now i s that I know what the p o s s i b i l i t y i s and so tha t ' s strengthening." G f e l t she was "more open to i t happening. . . . The extent to which one can be open to th i s t o t a l i t y i s the extent 1 1 4 to which one can ob l i t e ra t e the b a r r i e r s . " Rea l i ty i s perceived in a more heightened way. One has a r i che r , f u l l e r experience which also leads one to be less comfortable with the way r e a l i t y i s normally perceived. What had been normal, accepted r e a l i t i e s in C's l i f e , she found in to le rab le after her experience. "My sense of p r i o r i t i e s changed. My concepts of values a l t e red . I f e l t there was too much preoccupation with t a c t i l e things, consumerism, a t t a in ing physica l comforts, the pursuit of success. A l l of a sudden I wanted more of the more. I was uncomfortable for a while with the t e l e v i s i o n , with the commercials, i f you use t h i s toothpaste your sex l i f e i s going to be great. I began to see a manipulation in the universe that unsett led me and I hadn't seen th i s before. I got offended by some people's conversation, people I loved, because i t seemed so much twaddle." S found herself unable to accept what she might have before her experience. "I think that I'm more uncomfortable now with things that I might have accepted more ea s i l y before. I t ' s l i k e for me worshipping graven images, or sacred cows or anything other than the rea l th ing . I can ' t do that . I c an ' t , having experienced that . I can ' t accept anything else as my r e a l i t y . This i s my r e a l i t y . " As H returned by airplane from her camping t r i p , she observed the logging on the mountains. " [I was] very, very 1 15 deeply pained . . . seeing the logging. I r e a l l y saw i t . I f e l t i t l i k e a phys ica l scarr ing and I was pained by i t personally and I found myself r e a l l y sobbing. . . . Part of our shared humanity i s our shared loss of connection with the earth, and those not just being words to me, but having experienced that , and that contrast from having heard the music of the earth and then seeing the scarr ing up there." 3. A sense of reconnecting with l i f e at a deeper l e v e l Short ly after the experience, one reconnects with l i f e at a deeper l e v e l . One has the sense of l i f e changing yet remaining the same. One i s more aware and more involved with l i f e . One has a sense of being more present, more potent, and more a l i v e . In the early morning after her experience, C found her senses dramat ical ly heightened. "The b i rds , I mean i t was l i k e I hadn't heard birds before. The song was c lea re r , l o v e l i e r , hung in the a i r , c lear and c r y s t a l . My ears seemed to be sharper. I looked at grass l i k e I ' d never seen green grass before. I t was sharper green. The blades of grass a l l seemed so precious, so v i v i d . " This heightened fee l ing of involvement with l i f e continued for C. "I loved my l i f e . Everything was a joy. . . . The tone of l i f e improved. . . . I found deeper meaning in things I read. . . . I found I was 1 1 6 addressing another l e v e l of person when I spoke to somebody. . . . I found the volunteer work I d i d , I was get t ing better at i t . I found there was an overflow, a benefit to the family because I was fee l ing so contented. . . . The qua l i t y of my l i f e d e f i n i t e l y improved because I was doing the l i v i n g of i t l i k e a l l those other people I had watched." The fee l ing of reconnection with l i f e that S experienced was very meaningful to her. "The re la t ionsh ip with L changed. We were r e l a t i ng in a much more profound way. . . . We had an absolutely wonderful summer. We were present together, in the present, and not a l l caught up with what was going to happen when he'd be away. . . . I t was such a sense of being connected that I ' d had a l l summer with a l l the d i f f i c u l t i e s and s t ruggles . I t was so meaningful to me, a time where just everything was whole and connected. I t made sense to me." After G experienced l i f e through the branch of the tree, she was more able to reconnect with her own l i f e and deal with her suppressed fee l ings . "I began to write down my pain and my sorrow and my anguish . . . to transform death into l i f e by w r i t i n g . " G also found that her experience made her more present. "It makes me more here. That 's part of the here. . . . I t makes the normal days happier too because they [the experiences] are always there." 1 1 7 4. A recognit ion that the experience becomes a l i v e d t ru th One appreciates and gives words to the experience. One takes on the experience as part of oneself, therefore one i s able to speak from the place of a l ived-out t ru th rather than an idea or concept. One senses within oneself a knowing, an understanding and an appreciat ing that i s deeper and c l ea re r . G found deeper understanding through her experience. "And i t has helped me to understand. . . . We are members of the t o t a l i t y of what i s . . . . We become i d e n t i c a l to everything that i s . The ' i sness ' i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c . If we can enter . into ' i s n e s s , ' i f we can enter into the being of anyone or anything, we have entered into that and that into us, a mutual exchange of being." For C, her be l i e f s were only words u n t i l she had her experience. "God, transcendental, un ive r sa l , were words u n t i l I ' d experienced i t . I t ' s f leshing out the framework of what an experience can be. This i s l i v i n g i t , not just hearing about i t . . . . I t ' s part of you." C experienced a broader sense of understanding. "It r e a l l y opened my eyes to my fellow man and an understanding of l i f e . . . . I t has given me tremendous insight into the creat ion of the wor ld ." For S, her experience also became part of her. "I know from the ins ide . I t i s part of me. I know that who I am i s connected with that in the deepest way." With the experience 1 18 came a deeper knowledge. "It was a knowing that was not deep enough or c lear enough. I f e l t for the f i r s t time, in a sense, that here I was, knowing." "Having been marked" by her experience, H f e l t "a sh i f t in understanding and awareness." For H, concepts became personal t ru ths . "When I'm working with people t a lk ing about our connectedness, I f lash to that and i t ' s r e a l . My words are not just words. I speak those words as one of my truths from my own experience, and not from an abstract i n t e l l e c t u a l idea. That 's one of the ways in which i t changed me, i s that something that had been a concept or an idea was a l i v e d t ru th for me." 5. A sense of an elevat ion in one's nature Through having th i s experience, one has a sense of being connected with something that i s higher and deeper. Because one has touched something more, one feels that one i s more than what one was, that one i s higher. For some th i s i s characterized by a sense of maturing and one feels more developed and r i p e r . H f e l t her experience was " l i k e a maturing experience." Another w i l l experience the world and oneself as new, as one takes on th i s new l eve l of awareness. One has a sense of beginning. 119 For G, her connection with l i f e through the branch was l i k e going through the b i r t h process. "It acts more l i k e get t ing born, l i k e coming out of the uterus, the sickroom being a big uterus." Because of her sense of deeper connection she f e l t she was more. "You feel you're part of something tha t ' s much larger and more real than you imagined, more present in your da i l y l i f e , not up there in heaven. I hate that idea that God i s up there in heaven. For me i t ' s the sense that God i s a l l around and inside and operating a l l the time through the rhythms and the patterns and the usual ly imperceptible r ipp les that are always going on and that we happen i n to . We bump into God, more or l e s s , and then that i s part of us, so we are more than we were before, because we are now conscious of that ." For S, the experience was one of being reborn and fee l ing new. "For me i t was quite t o t a l l y new. I t was l i k e a r eb i r th experience, a coming out of the dark and becoming new. That was the way that I f e l t , that I was new. . . . I t ' s a sacredness of being affirmed as a s p i r i t u a l being, of p a r t i c i p a t i n g in s p i r i t . " For C, her feel ings of l i f e before her experience and after could be l ikened to entering a black hole in space. "When you go i n , what comes out i s t h i s s i n g u l a r i t y and then the math of i t i s reversed and then you go into a white hole and tha t ' s the r e b i r t h . So metaphorically I 've been through a 120 black hole ." C experienced incredib le newness and growth. "I f e l t I had come l i g h t years. I had a newer respect for the way I was made because I had t h i s feel ing that t h i s i s the way I was meant to be, that maybe I had been that when I was born and I ' d got a l l bent out of shape. . . . I knew that I had climbed that mountain and could see the world for the f i r s t time from th i s wonderful l eve l of i n t e g r i t y . . . . I f e l t mature, but I a lso f e l t fresh, new. But I had the wisdom. I f e l t opening out, r i c h in t h i s marvelous l i f e . I f e l t an expansion l i k e an explos ion ." 6. A sense of opposit ion resolved One has a sense that opposit ion i s resolved. What was once in c o n f l i c t i s now harmonized. What was incompatible i s now compatible. For some, i t ' s as i f a dichotomy has been transcended and i t ceases to matter. One i s now able to l i v e with i t . For others, the opposites become complementary. What was once characterized by d i sun i ty and po l a r i za t i on now works together and becomes a un i ty . As G i so la ted herself through i l l n e s s and depression, she " f e l t the need to deal with b i r t h and death." For G, these opposites came to work together after her experience. "I thought a great deal about how I would l i k e to die and came to the conclusion the way I ' d l i k e to die i s to look back and say 121 I l i k e d my l i f e . I'm glad I l i v e d the way I d i d . That 's a l l I need to do. I f . I can accept my own l i f e , I can l e t go and d i e . It became very simple. The tragedy of death became less t r a g i c . I t depended on the l i f e . " For C, the struggle was between her polar ized inner and outer selves, who seemed doomed to l i v e separate l i v e s . C was able to move beyond t h i s . "When that poor l i t t l e se l f that was set in concrete was released the union of the inner se l f and the outer s e l f was a very happy marriage." C then knew she had a p lace . "Everything f i t . There were no more questions. It a l l made sense. There was a place for me in the universe. I belonged. I f e l t l i k e everything had f a l l en into place, l i k e snow sof t ly descending, quie t , beau t i fu l , peaceful, easy, breathtakingly perfect . I couldn ' t bel ieve I was the same person." At the resolut ion of th i s opposi t ion, C f e l t a sense of release as would "a prisoner who has been un jus t i f i ab ly imprisoned. The release must be such a melting th ing , the b less ing , free, moving, experiencing, na tu ra l ly , with no r e s t r i c t i o n s , just l i k e a branch waving in the a i r . " 7. A sense of the enduring qua l i ty of the experience When one r e c a l l s the experience one i s moved. The experience i s l a s t i n g and r e t r i evab le . I t remains strengthgiving and a comfort, a thing of beauty one can hold 122 on to . H found that the experience was with her often. "I can ' t even say when i t comes to me, but often. I t might be several times a week . . . when I need a reminder of that side of l i f e . " She recreates i t e a s i l y . "I don't need to recreate the whole story in my mind's eye to do i t . I just remind myself of the one picture I have just of looking out over the va l l ey and of having the music come to me. . . . I t s t i l l does move me. . . . I was s t a r t ing to feel t ea r fu l as I thought of i t . . . . I do dip into that experience as I would dip into a w e l l , of ten." C f e l t she f i n a l l y had something she could hold on to . " I t ' s a comfort. I have had that comfort around me a l l those days and i t ' s always there . . . something that would stay . . . something that I could hold on to . " For G, re-experiencing the l i f e of the branch was also ea s i l y done. "I can shut my eyes and I know exact ly how that branch fee l s . . . . I can s t i l l recapture that fee l ing at any time. I 've never los t i t . I t ' s very strong and something I 've held on to . In d i f f i c u l t times that always comes back to me very s t rongly, the experience. . . . I t was l i k e a precious thing you could take out of the drawer and get strength from i t again." G was also able to re-experience the peacefulness and joy. " I t ' s just I ' d re-experience i t and I ' d love i t and think i t ' s wonderful and I ' d fee l very peaceful. And I always 1 23 remember that and I feel great hope and joy . " Shortly after her experience, S had a second cancer scare and had to endure a series of t es t s . "I f ind th i s [the tests] t e r r i b l e and I remember feel ing that connection and just holding on to that . I got the strength that ca r r ied me through that time. I t was just there . . . even though the l i g h t wasn't always there and I wasn't always aware say of that power out there, that tremendously powerful th ing . I t was inside me. I ca r r ied i t with me." S was moved to tears by her experience as she spoke of i t . "When I s tar t to t e l l you about i t now, I s tar t . . . I'm r e l i v i n g i t . I feel very moved by the whole th ing . Now i t ' s overwhelming me. I'm fee l ing i t as I'm t a lk ing about i t . I'm just fee l ing my heart pounding." One discovers that the meaning of the experience changes, r ichens, and deepens over time as subsequent experiences reinforce i t and new threads are added and woven i n . For H, the experience deepened over time. "An experience l i k e that ends up deepening and richening and growing over time . . . other threads . . . other subsequent experiences along those same l ines that r e a l l y just reinforced i t . . . . Other things come into i t over the years." H f e l t that her experience had served her w e l l . "It was l i k e , over the years so far , i t ' s l i k e r e a l i z i n g you don't need to have a l o t of those experiences, as far as serving . . . as far as deepening 124 me as a person." For G, the experience "helped form a web of exper ien t i a l knowledge of God" and served as a reference poin t . " "And that i s just one element that I go back to in experiences I 've had, sort of c r i t i c a l experiences in which I have some sense of the revealing of hidden forces at work. . . . I t supported my growing in teres t in s p i r i t u a l things, but s p i r i t u a l things as part of a whole, not off by i t s e l f . I t gave me the sense that s p i r i t u a l i t y had to be rooted in r e a l i t y . But r e a l i t y i s much bigger than people th ink. I had a sense of how to use those experiences for growth, emotional, s p i r i t u a l growth, a l l of i t being a whole. . . . But I don't have these tremendously big experiences that often, but l i t t l e experiences re la te to that ." 8. A sense of the ultimate wisdom of the experience One rea l i zes the inherent wisdom of the experience. There i s a sense of order, a rightness about i t . One has a sense of the complete s u i t a b i l i t y of the experience. One gets exact ly what one needs and nothing else i s needed. One has a sense of fu l f i l lmen t and completion. For S, the feel ings of doubt, a l i ena t ion and disconnection had been profound. Her experience brought her a deep sense of connection as she "dialogued with l i g h t . " She 1 25 got the c l a r i t y and aff i rmation she needed. "I f e l t that I was get t ing the message that I was going the r igh t way in my l i f e , that the work that I was doing was important, that i t was sacred. And tha t ' s r e a l l y what I needed. I needed to know that ." Her sense of knowing and completion was deep. " I t ' s a knowing that th i s i s r i g h t . . . . You couldn ' t have anything more complete than that ." As H placed herself in a s i tua t ion where she could both experience being alone and experience her fear, she found courage to move through that fear. "Wherever there i s fear there i s a deeper t ru th . And that when fear seems all-consuming and a l l of that , there is even a deeper t ruth and that does guide me through a l o t of th ings ." H was l e f t with a sense of completion. "That moment i s very complete unto i t s e l f . The experience was just so f u l l . There wasn't anything l e f t dangl ing." G experienced within herself feel ings of ut ter aloneness and of being "locked in concrete." She hid t h i s from the world through a charade of pretense. The acceptance and aff i rmation she f e l t from her v i s i t o r s helped her to move beyond th i s a r t i f i c e . "They were the epitomy of beauty and wisdom, the absence of a r t i f i c e . . . . I think that was the f i r s t moment of my feel ing that there was a place for me in o the universe just as I was." For C, l i f e was now r e a l . 1 26 Following the assassination of President Kennedy, G became depressed and i l l as she "worked through a lo t of anxiety about death." She spent days watching a tree ouside her window. "And one day I had the sense that I could pa r t i c ipa te in the l i f e of that branch . . . gradually entering into l i f e through the branch of that t ree. . . . The experience was preliminary to me being able to p u l l myself out of that ." G was then able to "transform death into l i f e by w r i t i n g . " For G, t h i s experience was a jo in ing with wisdom. "Wisdom i s c a l l i n g us a l l . We a l l are c a l l e d but i t ' s only in moments of great d i f f i c u l t y , that we can forget about our ordinary preoccupations, do we respond to wisdom and suddenly we are wiser because we have responded. The v e i l has opened momentarily and we are with wisdom." 9. A sense of humil i ty and of worthiness One feels both humble and very spec ia l at being given th i s opportunity. One gains a sense of humil i ty as one sees oneself as part of a greater whole, yet one also has a sense that one matters and that one has an important place in the whole. One feels one's uniqueness and i n d i v i d u a l i t y . S f e l t both importance and humi l i t y . "It sounds arrogant. The sense that I got was that th i s was sacred work and that I would get the strength to f i n i s h and that t h i s was 1 27 what I had to do. It was l i k e a task I was c a l l e d on to do. . . . I 've gained a cer ta in humil i ty and tha t ' s important as w e l l . " C f e l t spec ia l for having been given such an opportunity. " I t ' s a b l i s s f u l feel ing to know you've been given the opportunity for universal knowledge. . . . I was so blessed." She also experienced feel ings of humi l i t y . "If you have self-doubt and misunderstandings about yoursel f , t h i s brings the necessary humi l i t y . I t ' s a marvelous fee l ing to be humbled." H f e l t her specialness had been acknowledged. "I have been pr ivy to a very spec ia l experience . . . I was allowed that opportunity in my l i f e . " Before she l e f t the mountain, H wanted to mark the event. "I f e l t l i k e I ought to leave my mark too in some way and I went to the water 's edge and I played just a couple of notes on my recorder, and I stopped because i t d idn ' t feel r i g h t . I t f e l t too i n t r u s i v e . But a couple of b i rds came swooping down. I t was one of those things where I r e a l l y f e l t l i k e they were coming to acknowledge me." H f e l t the humil i ty one feels at receiving a spec ia l g i f t . "It was a g i f t . I wasn't in an e g o t i s t i c a l frame of mind that said th i s i s a g i f t for me alone, the mountains are singing to H! I d idn ' t think of i t l i k e that . . . . I f there wasn't any humil i ty there I couldn ' t define i t as a g i f t . It would be l i k e I was get t ing what I deserved. I 1 28 was get t ing what I worked for . . . . taking the c red i t unto myself." 10. A sense that one must be protect ive of the experience One discovers that these new r e a l i t i e s are at times not compatible with the way others experience l i f e . This can cause mild to extreme c o n f l i c t as one struggles to l i v e out a t ru th others might fear, d i s t o r t , misinterpret or misunderstand. D i f f i c u l t i e s might occur at both the soc i e t a l and the personal l e v e l . G found i t d i f f i c u l t in our society to function in a state of openness. "You feel enabled to experience things that many people are not open to . That 's d i f f i c u l t because everybody i s , they just don't c u l t i v a t e i t . They draw back. I think everybody has some kind of peak experience at sometime in the i r l i f e , but they don't want to name that or separate i t out, probably because i t would threaten the i r a b i l i t y to function normally. They might f ind i t a threat to the i r emotional s t a b i l i t y . If you're a shaman or a contemplative nun you could do that because you'd have a whole r i t u a l i s t i c structure to support you." G did not f ind our society and cul ture supportive. " I f you were intent on searching for wholeness, you'd be antagonizing a l o t of people around you. People would be threatened by that . In our cul ture to search 129 for wholeness, i t automatically makes you queer, odd." She found she could not share her experience often. "I can ' t share th i s with very many people, which i s a p i t y , but the i r bothers and doubts.and worries and c o n f l i c t s about f a i t h seem to be on an e n t i r e l y d i f ferent l e v e l than mine." For H, what was evident was the lack of supportiveness of our cul ture and the narrowness of i t s ideas. "I think that we might have an over-romanticized misconception of the ancient mystics and that kind of th ing , when we think that these specia l experiences are only open to some d i s c i p l i n e d core or group s p e c i f i c a l l y studying i t . I think that re f l ec t s how far away from our own centres of wisdom we've come as ind iv idua l s and as a cu l t u r e . Because we have t h i s idea of s p i r i t and wisdom as belonging to a r e l i g i o n and r e l i g ions have become so i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d . Probably a l o t more people have r e l i g i o u s experiences than even know i t themselves because they wouldn't acknowledge i t themselves because i t ' s outside what would be considered acceptable r e l i g ious p rac t i ce . They're defined as crazy. They're skep t ica l and doubting of the i r own experience and are not a t t r i b u t i n g meaning to i t . " The b e l i e f H holds of the misconception, in our cu l tu re , of the a v a i l a b i l i t y of spec ia l experiences only to an e l i t e few i s shown in C's a t t i t ude . "It must be very specia l but i t ' s r e a l l y very normal because I'm just an ordinary person and I'm not up there in a church preaching. I'm just doing my 1 30 th ing . So the spec ia l ty was the experience, but the person was ordinary, so I f e l t chosen. So there was a specia l ty there. But I thought the spec ia l ty was for myself, not to be passed on to others. People started worshipping St . Theresa and others, but I d idn ' t have th i s fee l ing that I had to go forward and teach the masses. I thought that th i s was for me, and someday I might t e l l somebody. But these people in the B i b l e , they were spec ia l in the f i r s t place. I was just ordinary ." The s o c i e t a l - c u l t u r a l nonacceptance one feels might manifest i t s e l f as c o n f l i c t in one's everyday l i f e . This was true for S during the year after her experience. "This year I got psyched out by what other people c a l l r e a l i t y . I f ind i t t e r r i b l e . People are a f ra id of the sacred in themselves and others. I t ' s too powerful or too much and so you need to tear i t down. You need to make people into objects to kind of lessen the power or distance yourself in some way. I couldn ' t understand why people needed to tear me down. So I found I had to distance myself from them and I was a l i ena t ing myself." S found the need to be protect ive of the experience saddening. " I t ' s not the kind of thing you can ta lk about with most people. They think you're crazy. That saddens me. I don't l i k e having to be ca r e fu l . I ' d l i k e to be able to share something that important." 131 Even when she f i r s t had her experience, C was concerned about the judgements of others. "I d idn ' t r e a l l y want to d ivulge . I wanted to kind of treasure i t . I thought, wel l I'm not going to t e l l anybody a l l of t h i s , because I know what happened and I don't want anybody ra in ing on my parade. Thank you very much." Later , C attempted to share her experience with her husband. "I was frustrated when I began to share i t with my husband. He moved away from me. I was crushed that I ' d had th i s beaut i ful experience and rather than drawing him towards me because of that , I almost had the fee l ing that he made up his mind at that point that he wanted a d ivorce . He couldn ' t handle i t . I t was devastating to me. It happened and he was not able to appreciate i t . I sensed the i c ine s s , which never r e a l l y melted. There was a distance and the more experiences I had s p i r i t u a l l y the more I couldn ' t share. He just wouldn't l i s t e n . I kept throwing myself on sp ikes ." When H returned from her t r i p she saw her father. "Well that would be the l as t person in the world I ' d t e l l the t ru th to, that I would want to know, to bare myself in that way. His a t t i tude i s r e f l e c t i v e of our society and our cul ture and t y p i f i e s that loss of connection from the earth. To be so frightened himself of the p o s s i b i l i t y of being deeply affected and changed by time alone in the woods. If i t d idn ' t push some button for him he wouldn't have to mock i t in that way. That was the f i r s t person I saw who clued me in to being 1 32 careful who I shared i t w i th . " 11= A sense of the need for supportive environments Whether the experience f i t s ea s i ly into one's l i f e , or whether i t brings c o n f l i c t , one finds oneself seeking environments where one can share and nurture one's be l i e f s and experiences and l i v e with i n t e g r i t y . G had d i f f i c u l t y with her husband's anger when she ta lked of her experience and she found herself seeking new fr iendships . "I can remember having a great d i f f i c u l t y adjusting for a while there. I was t ry ing to decide how I could preserve myself. I suppose I have decided to l i v e in a way very intensely that cuts me o f f . That 's maybe why my spouse had to leave. He simply couldn ' t understand. That was l a t e r on. I f e l t r e l i e f after he l e f t . I could be my own person and do what I wanted to do. Then I found myself increas ingly meeting people who had had experiences too." For C, the fee l ing was one of i s o l a t i o n as she stopped sharing her experience and withdrew. "So there was an i s o l a t i o n se t t ing i n . Where w i l l I f ind people who have tasted the deeper leve ls? But one by one a door would open. I found my friendships changing. I was veering away from those people. I t ' s kind of a fee l ing you don't cast pearls before swine." Finding an accepting environment was the 1 33 answer for C. "I found more support in my universe, more environments where that experience had a place. I'm involved in th i s study group. We've been t ry ing to study th i s book for a couple of months, and we're s t i l l in chapter one because we get a l l caught up in our own experiences. I t ' s marvelous. I t ' s the answer, the sharing. There's a spontaneity now. It just has to be the r ight s e t t i ng . " S found the sharing of her experience in the interview to be a very powerful too l through which she was able to reconnect with her experience and f ind d i r ec t ion again. " I t ' s so good to be able to t a lk with you and i t ' s so he lp fu l . Having to hide something l i k e that to protect i t just doesn't seem r igh t , because i t i s n ' t a s e l f i s h th ing . I t ' s the sort of experience that connects you with the universe and i t ' s such a cont radic t ion to have to hide i t . I t ' s wanting to f ind a way of connecting with others through that . This has been my whole struggle with a l l of that ." S r e l i ved her experience through the t e l l i n g of i t and once again f e l t empowered. "I got ins ights from t a lk ing with you. I r e l i ved the experience. That was r e a l l y helpful for me. I t was very, very r e a l . I a lso got a perspect ive. I t r e a l l y helped me to look at the l as t year and put i t together and see i t as a whole. I t was very, very energizing and empowering. I f e l t a l i v e and whole and opened up in a way I hadn't f e l t for a long time. And the main thing I saw was that I hadn't los t touch with S p i r i t . I t 1 34 was s t i l l there. I t helped me weave i t into a whole. I f e l t renewed after the interview with you." S found the need to es tab l i sh r i t u a l in her l i f e to keep her in touch with her experience. "The interview i s l i k e pa r t i c i pa t i ng in sacred time. I t ' s l i k e a New Year r i t u a l . I t ' s l i k e r e l i v i n g sacred time to renew your l i f e . I thought t h i s should become an annual r i t u a l , t a lk ing about a sacred experience. If you could do that every so often i t would help you renew your l i f e . I t ' s making the past present. It was l i k e p a r t i c i p a t i n g again and r e l i v i n g the experience." Experiencing an accepting environment was- important for S in keeping in touch with and nurturing her experience. One senses a common d i r ec t i on with others who have had s imi l a r experiences. C f e l t a "common bond that a l l people in the study had sensed these same themes." S f e l t the same. " I t ' s wonderful to think other people have these same, s imi la r kinds of th ings ." 12. A sense of l i f e being more As a resu l t of the experience, one ca r r i e s new perceptions and a t t i tudes to l i f e . One has experienced a t ru th . One has a powerful sense of the primary importance of th i s t ru th in how one l i v e s one's l i f e , so although the experience was pertinent to a cer ta in problem in one's l i f e , 1 35 i t somehow dwarfs the problem and poses a rea l issue. One has a sense of l i f e being more. I t i s as i f one i s being directed or c a l l e d to r ea l i ze more. One has a need to make r e a l , to bring into perception, the fundamental t ru th , and then to l i v e out th i s t ru th . For C, " th is awareness of the more in l i f e couldn ' t be kept down. I t had a power in i t s e l f pushing [her] to other things, to deeper l e v e l s , to new friends who had had a r icher experience." As S says, "This i s more important to me than anything." For H, " i t ' s a different way of l i v i n g and t h ink ing . " I t i s as i f one has embarked on a journey and one w i l l never return to where one was before the experience. This was true for S. "I don't think I could ever go back to before that ." Each responds to t h i s c a l l in a personal way. One i s l e f t in a state of openness, wondering about and questioning one's purpose in l i f e , how one should l i v e , and what else there might be to know and experience. The r e a l i z a t i o n of the journey was for S one of the factors that helped her to reconnect with her experience. S held the expectation that her story should be one of "experiencing l i g h t and going onward and upward," and feared the loss of connection she'd experienced during the past, d i f f i c u l t year would "screw up the study." As she to ld her story and r e l i v e d i t , she rea l i zed her experience was s t i l l 1 36 part of her. " I t ' s a l o s s , or a turning away, or a being off centre, but i t ' s not a not knowing. I t i s n ' t a t o t a l loss of meaning . . . just maybe the d i f f i c u l t y of the journey. . . . Now I see things as s p i r a l l i n g . The down parts are part of l i f e . It doesn't have to mean a t o t a l loss of connection. . . . So I lose the thread and we put labels on th ings . Because tha t ' s part of l i v i n g and i t might be d i f f i c u l t , but the other i s s t i l l there, and i t ' s a p o s s i b i l i t y . I t ' s l i k e a way. It i s a way." The struggle for S was how to l i v e t h i s out. "But what spec i f i c format i t takes in one's everyday l i f e , tha t ' s the quest ion." S f e l t the journey was " l i k e going in the dark and yet knowing that t h i s i s there." She retained a pos i t ive sense. "A way w i l l open up whatever i t i s . I think that I have a kind of f a i t h in something. I think that I w i l l f ind the d i r e c t i o n . " S also f e l t that a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y on her part was an important aspect of her journey. "There i s a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y on my side to have the r ight a t t i t ude , or have a kind of p u r i t y , or some sense of being. Somehow I have to have the r ight r e la t ionsh ip to i t . " G doesn't think one can always function on the l eve l of connectedness one feels after a spec ia l experience. "I don't think you always function at that l e v e l of wisdom and ins igh t . This i s imposed by the fact that we l i v e very crowded, pressured, urban l i v e s . We can ' t retreat into our cave or hermitage -long enough to digest the impact of so much 137 r e a l i t y . " For G, her age and experience with l i f e are factors in her journey. "I don't any longer have those disturbed feel ings of 'Where i s God?' and doubts. I just say to myself, 'You ' re t i r e d . You just need to go away,' or 'You just need a good n igh t ' s s l e e p ' . I t ' s maybe just that I 've outgrown that s t ruggle . The wisdom, at my age anyway, i s just l e t t i n g go and l e t t i n g r e a l i t y happen to you. I t ' s always there. You bump into i t sooner or l a te r i f you le t yourse l f . . . . When I 've been away on retreat and I'm f u l l of joy and calm, I don't want to come back to ear th. So there i s a moment of c o n f l i c t there. But I'm t ry ing increasingly not to resent coming back to earth because I know there are wonderful things that are going to happen i f I just l e t them and not t ry to hold on to what's just happened. Let i t go. Let i t go." For G, one of the questions of l i f e i s "How do we integrate?" Her way of t ry ing to integrate , her way of being on the journey i s to r e f l ec t on how she feels and to l i v e in the present. "I f ind myself not wanting to dwell on one thing as opposed to another, but enjoying a l l of experience. I t ' s a l l good. I t ' s a l l l i v i n g . Do what you're doing r ight now and concentrate on that . What you're doing r ight now i s sacred. We close ourselves off from so much experience by not doing that ." Since her experience, C has found that she approaches l i f e d i f f e r e n t l y . "I l i s t e n d i f f e r e n t l y . I l i s t e n to a lo t in here, ins ide myself, my inner nature, my inner God, 138 whatever nomenclature. I l i s t e n to the pattern of events. I'm not rushing off in nine d i rec t ions to f ind the pat tern . I l e t the pattern evolve in front of my eyes and then I take the ac t ion . I l i s t e n for the promptings rather than speaking f i r s t and l i s t e n i n g second. I t ' s eas ier . I was doing the e f fo r t . I , the big S, the se l f , the ego, was doing the l i v i n g during that long period of time. You can ' t . I t ' s too hard. I t ' s a l l pretense. Your being, the way you're made, i t ' s dying, dying. And now I just am r e a l l y a l i v e . Every day i s a g i f t . " As C continues to l i v e in the world, she i s a lso aware of an ongoing inner search. "I'm wondering i f w e ' l l ever f ind peace in the world because i t [the spec ia l experience] doesn't happen for everybody. I think I have a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y to keep my act c lean, to keep r e f l ec t i ng that I 've got something, but not necessar i ly to t e l l what i t i s , just to keep my space c lean. A few of us have th i s experience. If we'd a l l have i t , there would be world peace, so there must be something more than peace that God i s a f te r . I f ind that heavy. Why did God do i t ? What i s t h i s whole exercise? I t i s a conundrum." For C, having knowledge brings with i t a r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . "I have a sense of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y , that while I 've had th i s specia l experience and i t ' s been t e r r i b l y f u l f i l l i n g , maybe there 's a greater f u l f i l lmen t even beyond that . Maybe i t ' s a question of a cer ta in amount of struggle so people can f ind the contact with God and co-exis t with our 139 differences . I think part of i t i s that the learning i s part of the exercise , that peace i s only a by-product rather than the end r e s u l t . " C questions why th i s happened to her. "We have th i s influence and th i s r e s p o n s i b i l i t y to keep growing and th i s experience keeps supporting us. And maybe there 's that growth and spreading of influence and changing of the universe and acceptance of di f ferences . And maybe I'm one of God's handmaidens. Why does i t happen to only some? I t can ' t be s p i r i t u a l monopoly." She i s l e f t with the question of how to l i v e t h i s out in the world. "What can I do? I f ind rea l meaning in l e t t i n g my l i g h t shine where I am. I can just do my d a i l y things, but I 've got to keep that s p i r i t u a l place pure and not get into somebody e l s e ' s muck. But tha t ' s about a l l I can do, just be aware." I t would seem that whatever stage one i s at on one's journey, one i s quest ioning, opening, growing, changing, searching for "the more in l i f e . " THE EXHAUSTIVE DESCRIPTION The Context The themes of the experience were integrated and woven into a whole to form a de ta i led account of the meaning of the experience. This descr ip t ion reveals the structure of the 140 experience as f u l l y and as c l e a r l y as poss ib le . This narrat ive should be viewed as the descr ip t ion of a phenomenon. I t i s a non-linear experience as opposed to a f ixed l inea r experience. Although the events occur in c lus te rs of a fashion, they do not necessar i ly happen in exactly the order used in the account. They vary according to the i nd iv idua l experience, or perhaps occur at the same time. The themes weave together a tapestry, each theme not making sense i f out of context of the others. They are separate aspects of the phenomenon, but interdependent and moving together. The Descr ip t ion The v is ionary experience that transforms occurs in the context of one facing a challenge of existence. This challenge can take many forms and might involve such diverse experiences as divorce, c h i l d b i r t h , or death, and a var ie ty of accompanying emotions ranging from joy to deep despair . These events might be normal, expected passages of l i v i n g , or unexpected d i f f i c u l t i e s that l i f e has thrust upon one. They, might be e x i s t e n t i a l questions f inding the i r roots deep within the i n d i v i d u a l , or the struggles of someone t ry ing to break destruct ive behaviour patterns learned in childhood. 141 One might attempt to meet th i s challenge of existence in many ways. One person might deny or ignore what i s happening. Another might struggle desperately to maintain con t ro l , and yet another might attempt to remain r a t iona l and r i se above the problem. Some w i l l attempt to meet the issue head on while others might become i l l . But no matter how one attempts to help oneself, or over what period of time, the struggle continues. At best, one can succeed only to a ce r ta in point and the essence of the problem remains. At worst, one feels hopelessly stuck and so overwhelmed by the problem that one feels one's very existence i s threatened. The challenge or problem becomes i n t e n s i f i e d or heightened by some event and one becomes steeped in the issue. It i s as i f a l l facets converge and the problem i s brought into overwhelming focus. These events might occur through one's attempts to help oneself in some way, or they might be events happening outside of oneself over which one has or feels no c o n t r o l . But i t i s not whether one frames the issue in terms of stuckness and powerlessness as opposed to s t r i v i n g that matters. In a l l cases, one does what one i s able to do or has to do, but the issue continues to dominate one's being and to consume one's energy and a t t en t ion . One keeps t r y i n g , but eventually does not know what else to do. One has the sense that one cannot do i t a l l , that one cannot f i x the problem d i r e c t l y , and one wants desperately to 1 42 re ly on something e l se . Out of th i s longing to re ly on something other than oneself, one begins to think that there might be something more than i s presently recognized and ava i lab le in one's l i f e . One senses other p o s s i b i l i t i e s but does not know what these might be. There comes a point where one can struggle no longer and one allows oneself to surrender c o n t r o l . One has the sense of entering into a process, but does t h i s without knowledge of the process and without e f fo r t . Entry i s unplanned and involuntary . It i s as though one stops s t ruggl ing and begins to react as i f i n s t i n c t i v e l y , g iv ing in to a natural i n c l i n a t i o n and going with one's feel ings and i n s t i n c t s . One feels as i f one were being drawn or led into something e l se , and one does t h i s without quest ioning, simply doing what one has to do. One experiences a sense of withdrawal from everything and everybody, and places oneself, e i ther purposefully or unconsciously in i s o l a t i o n , removed from the mainstream of l i f e . This sense of i s o l a t i o n may be manifested by removing oneself e i ther phys i ca l ly or emotionally from one's. everyday existence. Here one experiences an intent focusing in and paying at tent ion to one's inner world. This involvement i s maintained over a period of time ranging from minutes, to hours, to days. I t i s as i f one's senses or emotions are heightened and one i s t o t a l l y absorbed by the experience of 1 43 paying at tent ion to oneself in a deep way. This focused at tent ion might occur at the p h y s i c a l , mental, emotional, or s p i r i t u a l l eve l s or a combination thereof. After a time, one gives in to the f u l l emotional experience of the problem. In t h i s experience of l e t t i n g go, feel ings are expressed and vented. Emotion i s allowed to grow to a fu l lness , as one enters into and experiences one's feel ings t o t a l l y . One might f u l l y experience, for example, one's fear, one's sadness, one's a l i e n a t i o n , or one's pa in , depending on the issue one i s fac ing . As one gives up cont ro l and f u l l y expresses one's fee l ings , one experiences a state of openness. One feels exposed or revealed and simply allows what i s to be. In th i s vulnerable yet receptive state there i s no longer any attempt to manage or cope. One i s open, undistracted, and t o t a l l y present. There i s a moment when the r e a l i t y of what i s occurring takes hold , and one rea l i zes that one i s experiencing a v i s i o n that might be auditory, v i s u a l , or k ines thet ic in nature. For some the r e a l i z a t i o n w i l l be instantaneous, for others i t w i l l be gradual. I t i s as i f one i s observing or witnessing the experience as wel l as being involved in i t , thus one might be absorbed by the experience and at the same time be aware of one's surroundings or the passage of time. One has such a powerful sense of vividness and r e a l i t y that one would never doubt or deny the experience. 1 44 I t i s a fact , a r e a l i t y to the one who experiences i t . While one i s within th i s v i s i o n , one senses one's t o t a l person as involved, focused, and absorbed in what i s being experienced. One has a sense that a l l of one's s e l f , phys i ca l , mental, emotional, and s p i r i t u a l i s capt ivated. One feels that one i s taken by the experience. Because i t i s beyond one's con t ro l , one can in no way manipulate i t . One i n t u i t i v e l y understands what i s happening, i n s t i n c t i v e l y knowing in the depths of one's being what the experience i s and means. One has a sense of inner recognit ion and knowing that i s immediate and complete. One senses that one has made contact with something more. For some, th i s i s a sense of u n i v e r s a l i t y , a sense of the interconnectedness of the universe. For others, i t i s a sense of breaking through and contacting a power that i s Absolute and universe wide. One feels in unison with something bigger and that one belongs. This sense of un ive r sa l i t y and of the Absolute both transcends the se l f and i s within the s e l f . I t i s as i f t h i s Absolute power i s outside of one and within one at the same time. This sense of connection takes one beyond the dichotomies of outside and ins ide , and subject and object. One i s marked with the sense that th i s i s a r e a l i t y that ex i s t s always, that i s simply there, and i s part of oneself, although not always percept ib le . One has a sense of awe, wonder and amazement at the richness and complexity of what 145 i s , and yet one also feels the naturalness, the s i m p l i c i t y and the normalcy of th i s existence. Because one has sensed one's connectedness with a l l of existence, one feels that one i s supported, that one i s not alone in the universe. This support i s empowering in that one feels strengthened, affirmed, accepted, understood, and loved. One feels a sense of happiness that might take the form of quiet contentment for some, while others might be moved to tears and experience great joy . One i s permeated with a sense of peacefulness which might be described as quiet calm or deep peace. Some w i l l be very moved by the beauty of the experience, while others experience a more serene sense of beauty. For some, the feel ings of happiness, peacefulness and beauty w i l l be a powerful part of the experience, while in others, they w i l l occur more f u l l y after the experience. After a time one i s aware that the experience gradually fades. In some instances, one might be aware of the measure of time, and in others a l l sense of time i s l o s t . In e i ther case, one i s not concerned with time during the experience. I t i s a spec ia l kind of time or another kind of time, where the exquisi teness, not the length, matters. After the experience, one might be able to describe what happened f a c t u a l l y , but one has d i f f i c u l t y descr ibing how one f ee l s . One has a powerful inner sense of the experience but i t i s beyond words. It i s as i f the experience operates at a 1 46 l e v e l beyond our everyday world, and the words we use to describe and make sense of th i s world do not work in making sense of th i s new r e a l i t y experienced. One has to use the ava i lab le language, but the words seem to evoke preconceptions and judgements about the experience. One feels that one has been given a very specia l g i f t that i s sacred. One feels honoured and blessed and has a sense of being rare and chosen. One might feel fortunate, and another might experience b l i s s at being given th i s specia l opportunity. One recognizes that one- emerges from the experience changed. One has a sense of being d i f f e ren t , and feels more resolved, integrated, and whole. For some, t h i s change might manifest i t s e l f p h y s i c a l l y , and one might look as wel l as fee l changed. This might l as t for a short period of time after the experience, or i t might be permanent. For others, the experience of change w i l l be w i th in , and w i l l not show i t s e l f outwardly. One has a sense of having broken through or been moved through a ba r r i e r , and of having opened up a new l eve l of perception that wasn't previously a v a i l a b l e . One senses that r e a l i t y i s broader and deeper than i s normally perceived and one finds oneself more affected by th i s broader r e a l i t y . Because one i s more aware of these deeper l e v e l s , one i s more open to experiencing at these l e v e l s . This new openness i s 147 strengthening and hopeful because one now knows what the p o s s i b i l i t y i s . One has a sense of perceiving r e a l i t y in a more heightened way. One has a r i che r , f u l l e r experience which also leads one to be less comfortable with the way r e a l i t y i s normally perceived. What was once to lera ted , or accepted as a normal part of the everyday world, can no longer be. Short ly after the experience, one reconnects with l i f e at a deeper l e v e l . One has a sense of l i f e changing yet remaining the same. It i s as i f one's approach or a t t i tude or perception i s d i f f e ren t . One i s more aware and more involved with l i f e . One has a sense of being more present, more potent, and more a l i v e . Some might feel the i r senses as dramatical ly heightened and experience the phys ica l world in that way. Others might feel a profound connection in the i r re la t ionships with other people, or experience new energy and confidence with which to continue l i f e ' s tasks. One appreciates and gives words to the experience, and t r i e s to make sense of i t . One takes on the experience as part of oneself, therefore one i s able to speak from the place of a l ived-out t ru th rather than an idea or concept. One senses within oneself a knowing, an understanding, and an appreciat ing that i s deeper and c l ea re r . -One has the sense of an e levat ion in one's nature. Through having th i s experience, one has a sense of being 148 connected with something that i s higher and deeper. Because one has touched something more, one feels that one i s more than what one was, that one i s higher. For some, th i s i s character ized by a sense of maturing and one feels more developed and r i p e r . Another w i l l experience the world and oneself as new and have a sense of beginning. Before the experience, one f e l t in c o n f l i c t . Now, one senses that opposit ion i s resolved. What was in c o n f l i c t i s now harmonized. What was incompatible i s now compatible. For some, i t i s l i k e a dichotomy has been transcended and i t ceases to matter. One i s now able to l i v e with i t . For others, the opposites become complementary and what was once character ized by d isuni ty and po l a r i za t i on now works together and becomes a un i ty . One senses the enduring qua l i t y of the experience. I t i s l a s t i ng and re t r ievable and when one r eca l l s i t one i s moved, often deeply. The experience remains s t rength-giving and a comfort, a thing of beauty one can hold on to . One discovers that the meaning of the experience changes, r ichens, and deepens over time as subsequent experiences reinforce i t and new threads are added and woven i n . One r ea l i ze s the ultimate wisdom of the experience. There i s a sense of order, a rightness about i t . One has a sense of i t s complete s u i t a b i l i t y . One gets exact ly what one needs, in one's own unique way, and nothing else in needed. 1 49 One has a sense of fu l f i l lmen t and completion. I t i s as i f one experiences wisdom and i s therefore wiser . One feels both humble and very specia l at being given th i s opportunity. One gains a sense of humil i ty as one sees oneself as part of a greater whole, yet one also has a sense that one matters and that one has an important place in the whole. One feels one's uniqueness and i n d i v i d u a l i t y . One soon discovers that these new r e a l i t i e s are at times not compatible with the way others experience l i f e . This can cause mild to extreme c o n f l i c t as one struggles to l i v e out a t ru th others might fear, d i s t o r t , mis in terpre t , or misunderstand. D i f f i c u l t i e s might occur at both the soc i e t a l and the personal l e v e l s . For .some, the lack of supportiveness of our cul ture and the narrowness of i t s ideas are apparent. One might fee l caught between being l abe l l ed as a r e l i g i o u s fanatic or insane. For others, t h i s s o c i e t a l - c u l t u r a l nonacceptance manifests i t s e l f in one's everyday l i f e as c o n f l i c t in personal r e l a t ionsh ips . For a l l , there i s a sense that one must be protect ive of the experience and be careful with whom one shares i t . Whether the experience f i t s ea s i ly into one's l i f e , or whether i t brings c o n f l i c t , one finds oneself seeking environments where one can share and nurture one's be l i e f s and experiences and l i v e with i n t e g r i t y . One might f ind oneself, e i ther abruptly or gradual ly, changing one's re la t ionships so 1 50 that one can share and l i v e out one's experience without threat . One senses a common d i r ec t i on with others who have had s imi l a r experiences. For some, experiencing an accepting environment i s a v i t a l part of the process of in tegrat ing the experience into one's being and making i t one's personal t ru th . As a resul t of the experience, one car r ies new perceptions and a t t i tudes to l i f e . One has experienced a t ru th . One has a powerful sense of the primary importance of t h i s t ru th in how one l i v e s one's l i f e , so although the experience was pertinent to a ce r t a in problem in one's l i f e , i t somehow dwarfs the problem and poses a rea l issue. One has a sense of l i f e being more. I t i s as i f one i s being di rected or c a l l e d to r e a l i z e more. One has a need to make r e a l , to bring into perception, the fundamental t ru th , and then to l i v e out th i s t ru th . I t i s as i f one has embarked on a journey and one w i l l never return to where one was before the experience. Each responds to th i s c a l l in a personal way. One i s l e f t in a state of openness, wondering about and questioning one's purpose in l i f e , how one should l i v e , and what else there might be to know and experience. Whatever stage one i s at on one's journey, one i s quest ioning, opening, growing, changing, searching for "the more in l i f e . " I t would seem that th i s journey may be l ikened to a s p i r a l moving ever higher. One begins at a place of 151 t r a n s i t i o n , where one feels c o n f l i c t and opposi t ion. Through the v is ionary experience, one senses the opening up of a new l e v e l of perception which reveals a di f ferent r e a l i t y and a deeper t ru th . Although c o n f l i c t drops away, the experience i s not c i r c u l a r in that one now has the answers and continues with l i f e as i t was. A paradox ex i s t s in that one has a sense of completion and fu l f i l lmen t ex i s t i ng along with a sense of openness and of being c a l l e d to more. There are new questions to be answered, new p o s s i b i l i t i e s to be experienced. One feels that one has set out on a journey and cannot turn back. THE ESSENTIAL STRUCTURE The Context The essen t ia l structure i s summarized from the exhaustive descr ip t ion and reveals the essen t ia l core or structure of the experience. I t should be viewed as a statement which addresses the question of meaning in as concise a manner as poss ib le . The Structure The v is ionary experience that transforms occurs in the context of one facing a challenge of existence. One does 1 52 one's utmost to meet the needs of the s i t u a t i o n , but no matter how one attempts to help oneself, the struggle i s not resolved. The challenge or problem becomes i n t ens i f i ed or heightened by some event. I t i s as i f a l l facets converge and the problem i s brought into overwhelming focus. One does what one i s able to do or has to do, but the issue continues to dominate one's being and to consume one's energy and a t t en t ion . In the midst of t h i s issue one desperately wants to re ly on something e l se . One has the sense that one cannot do i t a l l and begins to think that there might be something more than i s presently recognized and ava i lab le in one's l i f e . There comes a point where one allows oneself to surrender c o n t r o l . One stops s t ruggl ing and begins to react as i f i n s t i n c t i v e l y , g iv ing in to a natural i n c l i n a t i o n and going with one's fee l ings . I t i s as i f one i s being drawn or led into something e l se . One places oneself, e i ther purposefully or unconsciously, in i s o l a t i o n . One experiences a sense of withdrawal which i s character ized by focusing in and paying at tent ion to one's inner world. I t i s as i f one's senses or emotions are heightened and one i s t o t a l l y absorbed by th i s experience. An in tent , focused state i s maintained over a period of time. One eventually gives in to the f u l l experience of the problem. 153 Emotion i s allowed to grow to a ful lness as one enters into and experiences one's fee l ings . One feels exposed, or revealed, and in th i s state of openness simply allows what i s to be. There i s a moment when one recognizes that one i s in the midst of an audi tory, v i s u a l , or k inesthet ic experience. One's t o t a l being i s involved, focused and absorbed in what i s being experienced. One i n t u i t i v e l y understands what i s happening, i n s t i n c t i v e l y knowing in the depths of one's being what the experience i s and means. One has a sense of making contact with something more, with an Absolute power that i s universe wide. One feels the interconnectedness of the universe, that one i s in unison with something bigger and that one belongs. One has a sense of awe, wonder and amazement at the richness and complexity of what i s , and yet one also feels the naturalness, the s i m p l i c i t y and the normalcy of t h i s existence. One feels that one i s not alone in the universe. This support i s empowering in that one feels strengthened, affirmed, accepted, and loved. One i s moved by the beauty of the experience and marked with a sense of happiness and peace. One i s aware that the experience gradually fades. One might be able to describe i t f a c t u a l l y , but one has d i f f i c u l t y describing how one fee l s . Words don't seem to f i t , and in a sense make judgements about the experience. One feels that 1 54 one has been given a very specia l g i f t , something that i s sacred, and so feels honoured and blessed. One emerges from the experience changed, fee l ing d i f fe ren t , more resolved, integrated and whole. One has a sense.of having opened up a new l e v e l of perception that wasn't previously ava i l ab l e . One senses that r e a l i t y i s broader and deeper than i s normally perceived. Short ly after the experience, one reconnects with l i f e at a deeper l e v e l . One has a sense of being more present, more potent, and more a l i v e . One has a sense that opposit ion i s resolved. What was once character ized by d isuni ty and po l a r i za t i on now works together and becomes a un i ty . One takes on the experience as part of oneself, therefore one i s able to speak from the place of a l ived-out t r u th . One senses within oneself a knowing and an understanding that i s deeper and c l ea re r . One senses an e levat ion in one's nature. Because one has touched something more, one feels that one i s more than what one was, that one i s higher. The experience i s l a s t i ng and r e t r i evab le . I t remains s t rength-giving and a comfort, a thing of beauty one can hold on to . One discovers that the meaning of the experience changes, r ichens, and deepens over time. One gets exact ly what one needs and nothing else i s needed. One has a sense of fu l f i l lmen t and completion. One feels both humble and very spec ia l at being given th i s opportunity. 1 55 As one discovers that these new r e a l i t i e s are at times not compatible with the way others experience l i f e , one has a sense that one must be protect ive of the experience. One senses a common d i r ec t ion with others who have had s imi la r experiences, and finds oneself seeking environments where one can share and nurture one's be l i e f s and experiences and l i v e with i n t e g r i t y . As a resul t of the experience, one ca r r i e s new perspectives and at t i tudes to l i f e . One has a sense of l i f e being more. I t i s as i f one i s being directed or c a l l e d to r ea l i ze more. One has a need to make r e a l , to bring into perception, the fundamental t ru th , and then to l i v e out th i s t ru th . At whatever stage one i s at on t h i s journey, one i s questioning, opening, growing, changing, searching for "the more in l i f e . " 1 56 CHAPTER V: DISCUSSION STATEMENT OF FINDINGS The imaginal experience that transforms has been studied using the existential-phenomenological method of research. Through d i s c i p l i n e d r e f l e c t i o n on personal accounts of the imaginal experience, th i r ty-one themes which characterize the fundamental structure of the experience were formulated. The meaning of the experience i s revealed through a descr ip t ion of these themes. The imaginal experience does not occur in i s o l a t i o n , but as part of a psychological process the i nd iv idua l undergoes. Although one does not r e a l i z e one i s in t h i s process, one finds oneself carrying out spec i f i c behaviours such as i s o l a t i n g oneself, focusing inward and al lowing one's feel ings to be. This process seems to wel l up from wi th in , na tu ra l ly , as i f one i n s t i n c t i v e l y knows how to move beyond a bar r ie r to a higher l e v e l of funct ioning. The v i s i o n i t s e l f occurs as one l e t s go, thus achieving a state of openness where one simply allows what i s to be. Through the experience, one glimpses a r e a l i t y not normally perceived. As one's perceptions and knowledge expand, one's c o n f l i c t s and problems 1 57 drop away. I t i s as i f one transcends the problem by becoming aware of a greater t ru th . One feels that one has contacted something "more," something higher and in so doing one senses within oneself an elevat ion in one's nature. This i s characterized by feel ings of maturing and r e b i r t h . One feels changed, complete, integrated and whole, more who one r e a l l y i s . Having touched something higher, one feels c a l l e d upon to l i v e in a cer ta in manner, however the r e a l i t y of everyday l i f e does not read i ly allow t h i s . One tends to be careful with whom one shares the experience, as others can misunderstand, be judgmental and feel threatened. In spi te of t h i s , the experience becomes a personal t ru th in one's l i f e that cannot be denied or put down. One often has to choose new re la t ionships and move to environments where one w i l l fee l recognized and accepted. The experience endures over time. I t heals and renews as i t d id when f i r s t experienced, and i t grows, changes and evolves, as one experiences more of l i f e and gains in knowledge. One has a sense that one can never go back to where one was before the experience and so one continues l i f e from a new l e v e l , with expanded awareness and openness to more. The process, therefore, begins with a question, which i s resolved or dwarfed by the experience, and ends with a question asked at a higher l e v e l of funct ioning. The c i r c l e i s never complete, but s p i r a l s upward to higher l eve l s of perception, openness, awareness and knowledge. I t 1 58 remains forever open-ended, a searching for the higher in oneself and in the universe. LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY The method of data c o l l e c t i o n used in th i s study i s the se l f - r epor t . There are l i m i t a t i o n s to th i s method in that the co-researcher i s usual ly report ing an experience that occurred in the past. What i s remembered, and how i t i s remembered w i l l depend on the i nd iv idua l and on how long ago the experience took place. This could lead to relevant data being missed and w i l l affect what parts of the story the co-researcher emphasizes. The co-researcher i s a member of a s o c i o - c u l t u r a l group and cannot be t o t a l l y free of the assumptions and biases found in the views and be l i e f systems of that group. One tends to view oneself and one's experiences through these c u l t u r a l biases and to t i e one's experiences to th i s be l i e f system. By doing t h i s , one moves away from the actual experience as i t occurred and begins to speculate and theorize about i t . Relevant data can be los t or confused with conjecture and supposi t ion. Because of the population sample used in the study, i t i s d i f f i c u l t to generalize the resul ts to everyone. The findings are true for t h i s pa r t i cu l a r group of co-researchers who 159 happen to be women of various ages, from a var ie ty of r e l i g i o u s backgrounds, and who have univers i ty educations. Questions a r i se as to whether the resu l t s would be s imi l a r for men, for people from other cu l tu res , age groups, and socio-economic l e v e l s , or for those with less education or of d i f ferent r e l i g ious b e l i e f s . More work needs to be done before these questions can be answered. THEORETICAL IMPLICATIONS The Psychological Tradi t ion This study supports and adds to the growing body of knowledge in humanistic and transpersonal psychology. That such a powerful phenomenon e x i s t s , supports the increasing interes t in and valuing of the imaginal in our l i v e s . Singer, Starker and Watkins are only a few who are researching and wr i t i ng about imaginal experience. As a r e su l t , such experience i s becoming more widely accepted and we see an increase in the use of European psychotherapy techniques in North America, for example, Jung's act ive imagination, A s s a g i o l i ' s psychosynthesis, autogenic re laxa t ion , fantasy and imagery techniques, dreamwork, meditation and hypnosis. This study of imaginal experience supports the value of continuing and increasing research in general in th i s area. 1 60 As part of th i s movement, Maslow (1968) and Csikszentmihalyi (1975) have focused on a psychology of heal th , researching the cha rac t e r i s t i c s of p o s i t i v e , hea l th fu l , pleasurable human experiences. Cs ikszentmiha ly i ' s flow experience only becomes v is ionary experience when a state of "deep-flow" i s reached. His cha rac t e r i s t i c s of flow experience, although s imi l a r in some areas to Maslow's descr ip t ion of peak-experience, do not f i t the descr ip t ion of imaginal experience as found in th i s study. The findings in th i s study support Maslow's descr ip t ion of peak-experience (see l i t e r a t u r e review). I t would appear that the v is ionary experience i s a peak-experience. However, a problem ar ises in placing a l l these peak-experiences together and looking at the i r combined c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s . Maslow focuses on the pos i t ive resul ts of the experiences. He does not look at the process which leads up to the experience, i f indeed there i s one for a l l types of peak-experience. In the v is ionary experience, the process one follows i s fundamental to the experience. Maslow's treatment of the impact a peak-experience has on the i n d i v i d u a l ' s l i f e seems incomplete in the l i g h t of the findings of th i s study. Maslow t a lks about people becoming s e l f - a c t u a l i z e d , more r e a l , happier and hea l th i e r . He does not mention the repercussions t h i s might have on a threatened socie ty , nor does he mention the a l l - impor tant journey one feels c a l l e d to embark on. 161 Further research needs to be done in both these areas. I t has been important that the vis ionary experience be separated out from the group of peak-experiences and looked at in i t s e l f . In the same fashion, i t would be valuable to look at other forms of peak-experience separately and examine the i r unique processes and r e s u l t s . The need for t h i s becomes evident when looking at one of Maslow's (1970) cha rac t e r i s t i c s of the peak-experience. "It has also been discovered that p rec i se ly those persons who have the clearest and strongest iden t i ty are exactly the ones who are most able to transcend the ego or the se l f and become se l f l e s s " (p.67). In the case of the v is ionary experience, ind iv idua l s often seem to have los t a sense of themselves (or perhaps have never had one) and are on a quest for i d e n t i t y . After the experience, they feel more whole and closer to who they r e a l l y are. Perhaps Maslow's f inding i s more true for other peak-experiences, while the v is ionary experience that transforms i s , for some, a f i r s t step to achieving th i s c lear and strong i d e n t i t y . Maslow also found that in s e l f - ac tua l i zed people peak-experiences occur more frequently and in tensely . One of the strong feel ings of the co-researchers in the study of v is ionary experience was that of hope, a fee l ing that l i f e i s easier and happier because one knows what the p o s s i b i l i t i e s are. This state of openness was found to be a prerequis i te to v is ionary experience and perhaps i s also necessary to have 1 62 other peak-experiences. The Rel ig ious Tradi t ion The v is ionary experience i s not a myst ical experience in the c l a s s i c a l meaning of the term mysticism. The myst ical experience as defined by Underh i l l (1961) and Stace (1960) i s one of pure consciousness. I t i s a non-sensory experience, whereas the v is ionary experience i s a sensory experience. The v is ionary experience does f a l l under the categories of various "extended" de f in i t i ons of mysticism, including Stace's term extrover t ive or nature mysticism. According to Stace t h i s i s not a deep or s ign i f i can t experience. The opposite was found in the study of v is ionary experience, where the co-researchers ' experiences were at such a profound l e v e l as to change the d i r ec t ion of the i r l i v e s . Other authors give more recognit ion to the importance of th i s "extended" mysticism and to v is ionary experience. Wil l iam James acknowledges a var ie ty of r e l i g ious and myst ical experiences which he says can be cu l t i va t ed or can occur spontaneously. This study supports and extends James' f indings of i n e f f a b i l i t y , noetic q u a l i t y , t ransciency, and p a s s i v i t y . In pa r t i cu la r a s i m i l a r i t y i s found between James' descr ip t ion of the "twice-born" and the sense of being reborn or more mature described by the co-researchers in the study of 1 63 vis ionary experience. James also t a lks about opposites and c o n f l i c t s that "melted into Unity" (p. 379), as one becomes aware of a higher part of him that ex is t s wi th in "a MORE of the same qua l i t y" (p. 499). The study of v is ionary experience supports James' concept of "the higher ." James also addresses the notion of openness to the phenomenon making i t more a v a i l a b l e . "It may be that p o s s i b i l i t y and permission of th i s sort are a l l that our r e l i g i o u s consciousness requires to l i v e on" (p. 420). James summarizes h i s work with the fo l lowing: In th i s phenomenon something i d e a l , which in one sense i s part of ourselves and in another sense i s not ourselves, ac tua l ly exerts an influence, raises our centre of personal energy, and produces regenerative effects unattainable in other ways, (p. 513) The experiences of the co-researchers in the study of v is ionary experience bear out James' conclusions. The v is ionary experience that transforms might be considered a case of cosmic consciousness, i . e . , a sense of moral e leva t ion , a sense of immortali ty, i n t e l l e c t u a l i l l u m i n a t i o n , loss of fear of death, e tc . - But Bucke's study must be q u a l i f i e d by the fact that i t i s heavi ly biased by his own experience, by what l i t e r a r y texts were ava i lab le to him, and by his c u l t u r a l background. According to Bucke the experience must involve the subjective l i g h t . In the study of v is ionary experience the experience of l i g h t i s one p o s s i b i l i t y of many types of experience. Bucke also concluded the experience occurred mostly in men at f u l l maturity who 1 64 were highly developed, of good i n t e l l e c t , of superior physique, with high moral q u a l i t i e s . This study serves to generalize the experience from Bucke's l imi t ed view. Further research involving males and females of a l l ages and from a l l backgrounds i s necessary to address the idea that the experience i s possible only for an e l i t e port ion of the populat ion. Bucke d id imply that he had a sense of a process occurring when he stated that one must place oneself, perhaps not i n t en t iona l ly or consciously, in the r ight mental a t t i t ude . The study of v is ionary experience shows that the process of preparation and the attainment of openness are c r u c i a l . Laski (1963) attempts to look at a range of experiences that "are d i f ferent from those we could expect in the normal course of events and di f ferent in seeming to l i e outside the normal course of events" (p. 6) . Her d e f i n i t i o n of ecstasy i s meant to apply to a l l experiences whether of r e l i g ious content or not. Vis ionary experience appears to be an ecs ta t ic experience involv ing feel ings of gain and feel ings of loss as out l ined by L a s k i . She describes three types of in tens i ty ecstacy: adamic ecstasy, characterized by feel ings of renewal and new l i f e , knowledge ecstasy, and contact/union ecstasy. In the study of v is ionary experience a l l of these cha rac t e r i s t i c s appear in each co-researcher 's experience. Laski does make the point that the pursuit of ecstasy gives 1 65 r i s e to values and ideals opposed to those usual in soc ie ty , but that these values are i n f l u e n t i a l in contemporary s o c i a l l i f e . This was one of the f indings in the study of visionary-experience. In her study, Laski looks at such a wide var ie ty of experiences that the p o s s i b i l i t i e s for each experience become confused. This makes c lear the importance of studying separately various types of experience. Happold's (1975) look at "extended" mysticism incorporates James' work and extends i t . His cha rac t e r i s t i c s are accurate for the v is ionary experience after i t occurs. He f a i l s to look at what leads up to the experience, making only a b r i e f mention that one p o s s i b i l i t y , the swift-overwhelming experience, i s usual ly the resul t of a long period "of rest lessness, uncertainty and mental s tress" (p. 52). The study of v is ionary experience serves to expand on th i s and to f i l l i t out. Home addresses d i r e c t l y the notion of the i nd iv idua l who has a myst ical experience going through a psychological process. He believes th i s i s true for both the c l a s s i c mystic seeking myst ical experience and for the i nd iv idua l whose experience occurs "spontaneously." He feels that the ind iv idua l who has a myst ical (vis ionary) experience without a c t i v e l y seeking i t , i s ac tua l ly doing much work to bring i t about. The study of v is ionary experience supports t h i s theory. 166 The Coming Together of Two Tradi t ions In looking at the various psychological and r e l i g ious theories that are in existence, i t seems that the descr ip t ion of the v is ionary experience can be found in b i t s and pieces, caught between t r a d i t i o n s , and scattered throughout the l i t e r a t u r e . Each theory i s more or less accurate in i t s own way, but only takes the experience to a cer ta in poin t . I t has been the attempt of th i s study to produce an accurate and comprehensive descr ip t ion of the v is ionary experience that goes beyond any ex i s t ing theory and that transcends what has .seemed to be two opposing t r ad i t i ons in psychology and r e l i g i o n . An attempt has been made to look ser ious ly at t h i s d i v i s i o n between the r e l i g i o u s and the psychological t r a d i t i o n s . According to Deikman (1982) ce r ta in sources of suffering cannot be dealt with in the Western framework because the t r a d i t i o n a l view of r e a l i t y , based on a nineteenth century phys ica l and psychological model, i s too narrow to encompass human consciousness. "Western psychology in i t s often vain attempts to expla in away the sense of meaninglessness and i t s attendant symptoms, may have much to learn from mysticism, which sees meaning as something rea l and accessible to consciousness provided the appropriate capacity has been developed" (p. 9) . Perhaps the meaning and purpose 167 of l i f e l i e beyond the spectrum of ordinary consciousness. The resu l t s of the study of v is ionary experience suggest that t h i s so. One of the basic foundations of myst ical teaching i s that there i s a fundamental r e a l i t y underlying appearances that i s not accessible to the senses, but i s accessible through myst ical i n t u i t i o n . Perception of i t gives meaning to i nd iv idua l existence and does away with fear of death and self-centered desires that d i rec t the l i v e s of most people. This i n t u i t i o n of the nature of r e a l i t y , according to Deikman (1982) and Bucke (1901), marks our t r ans i t i on to the next stage of evolutionary development. I t i s important that we aff i rm th i s function of i n t u i t i o n as our int imations of a larger existence f ind no support and often opposit ion in our s c i e n t i f i c cu l tu re . I t i s Deikman's hope that Western thinkers w i l l come to accept the p o s s i b i l i t y of myst ical science as a straightforward empir ical process dealing with the development of a basic human capaci ty . The myst ical emphasis on self-development makes i t consonant with modern psychotherapy. The myst ical t r a d i t i o n has been concerned with the very problems that modern psychotherapy has been unable to resolve. I t makes' sense, therefore, to invest igate mysticism with a view to dealing more e f f ec t ive ly with those problems and gaining wisdom as human beings. (p. 4) The co-researchers in the study of v is ionary experience found wholeness and meaning in l i f e in a way that went beyond the t r a d i t i o n a l psychological and r e l i g ious views and yet 168 contained elements of both. This would suggest that to be f u l l y human, one cannot have one's being categorized according to theories and t r a d i t i o n s , and that t h i s , in fact , accomplishes the opposite, producing s p l i t s , fragmentation and a sense of meaninglessness. As long as we continue th i s fragmented view of the human being, i t i s u n l i k e l y we w i l l produce healthy, integrated, meaning-full people. Although myst ical t r a d i t i o n i s not a therapeutic system, one of i t s resu l t s i s reduction of symptoms and hea l ing . However, Deikman points out that the issue i s greater than improving psychotherapy. At stake are the q u a l i t y , the s ignif icance and the future of human l i f e . The Psych ia t r i c Tradi t ion One of the resu l t s of our s c i e n t i f i c world-view i s the consideration that the imaginal experience or any other "unexplained" experience i s the ha l luc ina t ion of mental i l l n e s s , that i s , a disguised form of repressed c o n f l i c t . Many of the phrases used in the DSM III to describe schizophrenia might ea s i ly be taken out of context and used to judge the imaginal experience: delusions with absurd content with no possible basis in fact , grandiose or r e l i g ious delusions, auditory experiences, vague, overelaborate or "magical" th ink ing , " s ix th sense," overvalued ideas, unusual 1 69 perceptual experiences (sensing the presence of a force or a person not ac tua l ly present) , s o c i a l i s o l a t i o n and withdrawal. The meaning of these terms depends on one's idea of what i s fact and leaves no room for a di f ferent view of r e a l i t y . The v is ionary experience might involve the experiencing of many of the cha rac t e r i s t i c s l i s t e d above. However, the judgmental, value-laden qua l i t y of the descr ip t ion i s obvious, for example, the decis ion as to what i s fact and what i s worth va lu ing , the idea that metaphorical speech i s bad, that " s ix th sense" does not e x i s t , that s o c i a l i s o l a t i o n and withdrawal are unhealthy, e tc . The key differences between ha l luc ina t ion and the v is ionary experience are the contexts in which they occur and the i r outcomes. The ind iv idua l who has o ' ha l luc ina t ions while undergoing a schizophrenic episode does not experience a sense of wholeness, in tegra t ion , renewal, maturing, wisdom, deeper connection with l i f e , e tc . In contrast , the v is ionary becomes a hea l th ie r , more whole, integrated, v i t a l , more a l i v e i nd iv idua l as a resul t of the experience. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS The findings of th i s study of imaginal experience have a p r a c t i c a l impact at three l e v e l s : the i n d i v i d u a l , the psychotherapeutic, and the s o c i e t a l . 170 The Indiv idual This study shows that ind iv idua l s have an innate capacity for reorganization and change. Recognition of t h i s a b i l i t y by indviduals and soc ie ty , and act ive work at developing these in te rna l resources, w i l l empower us as our own change agents. We w i l l learn to be open to the wisdom of our inner world and look to i t as a guide. As we learn and become fami l i a r with the language of our unconscious, and i t s processes, we become observers of our own personal system of in te rna l funct ioning. Through i t , we can promote our own growth, healing and transformat ion . Beyond the impl icat ions th i s study holds for healing and change l i e s the greater p ic ture of what i t means to be human. The ind iv idua l who has a v is ionary experience comes to know a r e a l i t y that i s not normally perceived. In doing t h i s , one touches something higher and therefore senses an elevat ion in one's own nature, a fee l ing that one has become more who one r e a l l y i s . One has a profound sense of the connection of a l l that e x i s t s . This knowledge gives meaning and s igni f icance to l i f e . One i s able to move beyond everyday existence and be open to "the more" in l i f e . One l i v e s with a sense of hope and optimism, knowing the p o s s i b i l i t i e s that ex i s t for expanding awareness. In a world where ind iv idua l l i f e i s often str ipped of meaning, the v is ionary experience resul ts in 171 one transcending the e x i s t e n t i a l questions of l i f e and death, lonel iness and pain, and f inding a meaning to existence. Psychotherapy The psychotherapeutic process i s weighted in favor of the verba l , l o g i c a l , r a t iona l modes of thought. From the resu l t s of the study of the imaginal experience, i t i s evident we must go beyond what we have now (contemporary psychodynamic theory and the s c i e n t i f i c d e f i n i t i o n of r e a l i t y ) , and be open to p o s s i b i l i t i e s better communicated by the arts and other methods involv ing r ight brain th ink ing . This imaginative capacity might be of tremendous assistance to therap is t s . A more general use of interventions involving imagic th inking would develop th i s resource. Therapy could be a teaching process, where c l i e n t s learn about the i r i nd iv idua l systems of change. Focus would be on the ac t iva t ion of the c l i e n t ' s inner resources and bringing into awareness h is or her inner wisdom to be used as a guide. This would put the r e s p o s i b i l i t y for change squarely on the shoulders of the c l i e n t and ensure art ongoing a b i l i t y to cope and to grow outside of therapy. Beyond the development of r ight brain modes of th inking i s a more profound impl ica t ion for the therapeutic process i t s e l f . The resul ts of the study of v is ionary experience show 172 a natural human process leading to transformation. Knowing t h i s process requires therapis ts to approach the i r c l i e n t s d i f f e r e n t l y . The therapist could act as a guide, helping the process along. It would be necessary to allow and ac tua l ly encourage people to enter into the depths of the i r emotions, and to follow the i r natural i n c l i n a t i o n s , rather than fight them or give in to soc i e ty ' s judgments and pressures. Allowing t h i s process and be l iev ing in i t would c u r t a i l the use of interventions designed to stop pain , stop negative th ink ing , cope, "deal with" problems, or el iminate feel ings and behaviours. The therapist must believe that there i s a potent r e a l i t y underneath that i s capable of changing with ease. As Deikman (1982) says, "The value of mysticism for psychotherapy i s not in the appl ica t ion of technica l devices to pat ients , as i f those devices were a mental a n t i b i o t i c or a superior t r a n q u i l i z e r , but the change i t can bring about in the the rap i s t ' s world-view and concept of the p o s s i b i l i t i e s in human l i f e " (p. 173). Soc ie ty The ac t iva t ion of our inner resources and a confidence in our inner wisdom has profound impl ica t ions at the soc i e t a l l e v e l . A happier, heal th ier population i s i nev i t ab l e . Individuals w i l l have touched the higher in themselves and 173 know, from personal experience, the connectedness of. the universe. People who have v is ionary experience undergo a change in the i r values. Different things become important, and what was once tolerated as normal can no longer be accepted. This s h i f t , occurring in i n d i v i d u a l s , w i l l eventually create a sh i f t in soc ie ty . The resul t s could mean incredib le change, acceptance of di f ferent races and creeds, the end of war, a respect for the earth, transcendence of e x i s t e n t i a l dilemnas. In discussing the i n d i v i d u a l ' s task in a society which i s current ly far from the values mentioned above and far from accepting myst ica l experience, Deikman (1982) uses the metaphor of baking bread to. i l l u s t r a t e the progressive stages of work that must be accomplished in the process. F i r s t f i e l d s must be plowed, then the seed sown, and in due time the grain harvested. Next the grain i s ground into f lou r , and the f lour mixed with sa l t and yeast and placed in the oven to bake. Only then does one obtain a loaf of bread that w i l l provide the nourishment to sustain and advance l i f e , (p. 177) According to Deikman these stages apply to ent i re c i v i l i z a t i o n s as wel l as to i n d i v i d u a l s . Knowledge of the Self i s not simply a product of the i n d i v i d u a l ' s effor t or a b i l i t y . The necessary base must be present in a cu l tu re . "At present our society i s probably at the stage in which the f i e l d needs to be plowed or the grain sown" (p. 177). In t h i s context, the role of ind iv idua l s who have had v is ionary or 174 myst ical experience "may be to ass i s t in that process, even i f the bread i s n ' t baked u n t i l generations l a te r" (p. 177). This long range view of the development of our higher nature as a people i s d i f ferent from the popular perspective that enlightenment i s "out there" l i k e a pr ize to be won by the i n d i v i d u a l . It i s a hopeful view for us as ind iv idua l s and for humanity. "It allows people to be what they can be and to do what they, and only they can do" (p. 177). As C sa id , "What can I do? I can just do my d a i l y things, but I 've got to keep that s p i r i t u a l place pure . . . . but tha t ' s about a l l I can do, just be aware." Deikman sees a developmental process which spans many generations. We w i l l have enough' work to do to occupy our energies for a long time to come. There i s no need to pursue the exo t i c , the a l i e n . There i s a need to make better use of what our sciences have taught us and to ass imi la te the knowledge and perspective of the myst ical t r a d i t i o n into Western psychology and Western soc ie ty . The harvest of our effor ts w i l l be a deeper understanding of human l i f e and the capacity to further i t s evo lu t ion . (p. 178) IMPLICATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH If more i s to be known about t h i s important phenomenon, further research needs to be undertaken. The fol lowing areas are p o s s i b i l i t i e s for inqu i ry . One might 175 1. e l i c i t the experiences of more people to make general iza t ion more c r e d i b l e . 2. invest igate va r ia t ions of the experience. 3. invest igate var ia t ions within the experience to f ind out what they say about the i n d i v i d u a l , the problem, or the the experience. 4. invest igate the effect of one's a t t i tude on the experience. Do people with negative a t t i tudes ever have the experience? 5. examine how society accepts the experience and how i t s view affects the experience. How does society accept the "Before the Experience" behaviours and does th i s have an impact on whether one follows through with one's natural i nc l i na t i ons? 6. invest igate whether these experiences are ava i lab le to a l l or only some. If so, what kinds of people with what spec i f i c q u a l i t i e s ? 7. examine what pre-condit ions are su f f i c i en t for the experience to occur. Are some pre-condit ions more relevant to cer ta in ind iv idua l s and problems than others? 8. invest igate whether cer ta in c u l t u r a l groups have cer ta in types of experience. 9. invest igate whether other peak-experiences, as described by Maslow, follow a psychological process s imi l a r to the v i v i d imaginal experience, or i s there a spec ia l process 1 76 for each type of experience. 10. invest igate what l i f e i s l i k e for ind iv idua l s in the aftermath of an imaginal experience. 11. create survey instruments. 12. devise and test programs which seek to induce imaginal experience. SUMMARY The v i v i d imaginal experience, as an instance of Maslow's (1968) peak-experience was studied through the e x i s t e n t i a l -phenomenological method of research. Data were gathered through interviews and examined using a protocal Analysis ( C o l a i z z i , 1978). The meaning of the experience was expl icated through a descr ip t ion of the major themes which comprised the experience. I t was found that the imaginal experience producing pos i t ive and l a s t i ng change involves a psychological process whereby the i n d i v i d u a l , whose focus i s drawn by a problem, attempts to f ind a so lu t i on . In the search, one withdraws, l e t s go of con t ro l , and achieves a state of openness, during which a v i s u a l , auditory or kinesthet ic experience occurs. After the experience, one feels resolved, changed, whole and integrated. One has a sense of having touched something higher in oneself and in the universe. The knowledge and perception gained from the 177 experience draw one forward on a journey. One might experience d i f f i c u l t y as one's values change and at times seem in d i rec t c o n f l i c t with the values of soc ie ty . 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Mysticism, sacred and profane. New York: Oxford Un ive r s i t y . 181 APPENDIX: Protocols 182 Transcript (Case C) C: Well I would say that the f i r s t experience that I had was in the springtime of 1969. From about '63 to '69 l i f e had been very d i f f i c u l t emotionally. I had been going through a lo t of pretense in order to protect cer ta in people that were in my l i f e and I f e l t that i t was necessary to keep the family unit together and so attempted to r i se above these problems. However, the problems, as wel l as being hidden, supplied a foundation for increased problems during that period of time which of course meant that my body was under absolutely the worst s t r a i n . I wasn't functioning properly, e i ther phys i ca l ly or mentally as wel l as emotionally. K: Was t h i s because you were doing a l o t of pretending? C: I think so. Image-keeping i f you want to say that . Pretending that the problems d idn ' t ex is t in order to carry on what was expected of me as a wife , mother and c i t i z e n . So the underlying r e a l i t y of the unresolved problems was creat ing t e r r i f i c tension and I wasn't sleeping properly. I wasn't r e l a t i ng properly to people. Everything was as I had learned at my mother's knee, so to say, how to behave with people and what to say in the r ight s i tua t ions , per fec t ly mannered and a l l the res t , whereas the real person underneath th i s a l l was crying out . . . more than crying out. I mean I had sunk so low I was looking up at the bottom and I couldn ' t understand how I could ei ther descend into h e l l from where I was or at best ever get up to a l e v e l where I could even contemplate heaven. But i t was a very s t ress fu l time and with the pressures of being in a community and t ry ing to support i t and being in a family and feel ing responsible, I began to dr ink . That sounds rather an exci ted thing to say from somebody with my background. I was having a sherry every night before dinner and I mean th i s i s the way they t e l l you i t s t a r t s . However, I had an opportunity of being away with a group of people on a retreat and I just kept get t ing worse and worse throughout the f i r s t day and a half of t h i s pa r t i cu l a r per iod . Seeing other people laughing and apparently react ing with one another in a very normal s i t u a t i o n , I s t i l l f e l t l i k e someone looking in at an aquarium. But I wasn't a par t ic ipant in the body of people. I f e l t very much l i k e an observer and that l i f e was passing me as a parade. K: How did you get yourself to t h i s retreat? 183 C: There were several of my friends that were interested in going on th i s retreat and had said that they had found i t so bene f i c i a l in the times that they had gone that at best I would make a lo t of progress and at worst i t was just a day and a hal f or two days out of my l i f e . And with that approach I thought that i t c e r t a in ly did make a lo t of sense. K: What was the retreat about? C: W e l l , i t was a retreat with perhaps 200 people out at the u n i v e r s i t y . I t was a c lass of people that I had met through meditat ion. I t ' s supposed to be a very re laxing and rejuvenating type of weekend and i t i s recommended that people do th i s 2 or 3 times a year. I suppose I had been somewhat of a cynic over the years and had thought any of these couldn ' t possibly do what they are se t t ing out to do. However, I f e l t so dreadfully and so in need of help and l i f e was get t ing more and more d i f f i c u l t to l i v e because of the a r t i f i c i a l l i f e I was l i v i n g on the surface and the r e a l i t y of the problems underneath, that I thought, "Well t ry i t . You're not r e a l l y going to lose . " And tha t ' s exactly what took place. I remember v i v i d l y the evening of the second day we were gathered. We had an evening lecture and everybody was animated and laughing, but I s t i l l f e l t tense l i k e a board. However during the course of the evening I was chat t ing with someone who kind of struck a nerve and while we chatted something she remarked just happened to loosen up. I t struck a nerve and I started to weep. Well the weeping went on for about four and a hal f hours, so I l e t i t happen. I recognized i t was just a question of al lowing th i s pent up emotion and unresolved anxiety and ser ies of problems to just kind of d iss ipa te and i t r e a l l y did pour out of me. K: Would i t be possible for you to describe a b i t further your feel ings when you were in that group of people and you couldn ' t p a r t i c i p a t e . C: W e l l , I had the sensation that everybody was normal but myself. Why were they able to laugh spontaneously and joke with each other. I t was a very obvious non-pretense and I , having done thea t r i ca l s a l l my l i f e , I f e l t well-equipped to carry on and do what was expected of a c i t i z e n . But these people were behaving l i k e people, and I d idn ' t feel l i k e a people. I just simply f e l t I was s t i l l behaving in a manner that was expected of me, a presentation of behaviour patterns that I was to l i v e up to because they were presented to me by my 184 parents. Perhaps tha t ' s a damning thing to say of my parents. I t may have been more self-imposed than parental ly imposed. K: How were you feeling? C: Envious. Oh yes. I was envious that people could feel as relaxed and as animated. I f e l t myself, the "self" had been imprisoned in concrete for so many years that I was unaware as to how I could release that . K: Were you aware of th inking that you were a prisoner? C: Yes. I f e l t over the time that I had been behaving as an actor rather than a par t ic ipan t in l i f e , that I was repressing a l l that I was on the inside and I was d e f i n i t e l y aware of that . When I learned to meditate I was aware I was get t ing r i d of l eve l s of that on the outside and became more relaxed, but I was s t i l l aware I had a very hard nut to crack within myself. So again my observations of people were that l i f e looked a lo t easier to be l i v e d than I was able to do. So I was anxious of my future. How was I going to develop? Would there be any development? I was tense. I was frightened of l i f e . I f e l t that at some point someone was going to see through my charade and then I would be t o t a l l y defenseless. At times I f e l t l i k e I was just being held together by scotch tape and glue because my w i l l power to keep th i s image was d iminish ing . You're not meant to be that by nature. So i t had been a thorough imprisoning, w e ' l l say s e l f - i n f l i c t e d , for whatever reasons. They were well- intended reasons, but i t wasn't easy to re la te to my husband. It was easier to be.a mother, but i t was more d i f f i c u l t to re la te to my peers. So a l l the negative feel ings that I was experiencing in reference to that especia l weekend were almost heightened because the envy was at i t s peak. The fee l ing inside of "Dear God help me. Let me not go through one more day l i k e t h i s " was intense and I could sort of feel myself crying ins ide , c ry ing for t h i s person that was imprisoned and yet t h i s outer person who was going through a l l the outer manifestations of looking joyfu l and being animated and seemingly adept at making good conversation was just a wonderful performance, but I was not able to help the inner person. I was being torn apart. It was a push me p u l l you s i t u a t i o n . I used to look at nature thinking w e l l , you know, the tree grows so innocently and so qu ie t ly and the leaves develop at the r ight time and there 's a place for every leaf on the t ree . No two leaves seem to overlap or s t i ck together. Even the 185 changing grains of a mountain, i t ' s a l l done so qu ie t ly and subtly and i f mankind i s given th i s bra in , t h i s i n t e l l i g e n c e , why on earth was my l i f e so d i f f i c u l t . So obviously I was doing something that was wrong. Because nature I think i s simple and i t ' s quiet and changes take place q u i e t l y . I was struck by the, what s h a l l I say, the metaphor of the bu t te r f ly and the cocoon. The c a t e r p i l l a r does i t s thing for a number of years and then in order to be t r u l y l ibe ra ted and free to do i t s thing in the universe i t has to cocoon i t s e l f for how many days or nights , who knows. I'm sure that every cocoon bursts at a d i f ferent time. But in that darkened state of immobil i ty, from the outer appearance, the most dynamic change i s going on, perhaps the most dynamic change to any creature in the universe. And then the cocoon bursts and there i s th i s magnificent bu t t e r f l y . K: Were you carrying th i s image within you while you were going through th is? C: No, tha t ' s something tha t ' s come l a t e r . After t h i s experience happened to me I was aware that tha t ' s where I had been. I was in a cocoon stage for a number of years. And maybe i t wasn't a l l bad because then what was released with the new b i r t h of t h i s new person, there has been a freedom to enjoy and explore and be emancipated and understand that a l l the things I was doing in my new l i f e were probably incubating during that cocoon period where I was desperate and there was no l i g h t at the end of the tunnel . I was inc red ib ly alone. Rather I suppose l i k e someone being stuck on the planet Mars a l l by themselves with no means of communication. Funnily enough, I remember, perhaps i t was one of the Russians who had gone off on one of the space missions, maybe to the moon. The de t a i l s of i t are less important to what happened. But they had to cut him ad r i f t and so he was f loa t ing in the universe, u n t i l of course his body would just d i e . The despair that that man must have f e l t I can t o t a l l y understand. He would have no way of returning to earth and he would be assured of dying and that was exact ly how I f e l t , that death was imminent. So i t was a pret ty heavy space. And in te res t ing ly enough, I took a course in astronomy after my bu t te r f ly had gotten free because I wanted to understand what was happening. And they do ta lk about black holes in the universe. They also say, they being the teachers, that nothing ex i s t s in the universe that doesn't ex i s t within you. A black hole i s an area in space where the energies are moving so qu ick ly that they can ' t be seen. In other words, i t ' s a d i f ferent pace than the pace of l i g h t . If astronauts, or 186 anything, get sucked in to a black hole, I ' l l say for the most part i t ' s game over. And the ari thmetic of i t a l l proves i t , the physics of i t . But there i s what i s known as a s i n g u l a r i t y , a funnel. You know what a funnel i s in your k i tchen. Well i f you put things in the hopper end and i t comes out the smaller end that i s s imi la r to a black hole . When you go i n , what comes out i s t h i s s i n g u l a r i t y and then the mathematics of i t are reversed and then you go into a white hole and tha t ' s the r e b i r t h . So metaphorically I 've been through a black hole . K: You've used the metaphor of a cocoon, and you're wrapped in a cocoon. The energy i s moving in you l i k e in a black hole, i t was so intense and so desperate. So oh th i s weekend you're at that point when you began t a lk ing to t h i s woman? C: Yes, yes. A lady I had known for a short period of time, maybe 5 or 6 years. I guess that indicates that I'm older when I say 5 or 6 years i s a short time. Anyway, she was, I th ink, perhaps destined to be in my l i f e at that point and she could see my d i f f i c u l t per iod . Perhaps i t was ref lec ted in my face, some sort of intense look. I'm not sure. But anyway, she was sweet and loving and gentle and kind, rather l i k e one would experience in the womb. I f e l t t e r r i b l y comforted in her presence. She could have read me the telephone book and I s t i l l would have f e l t comforted. So she and I were . t a l k i n g . I 've forgotten at the moment what spec i f i c problem was passing through my mind. ButI do r e c a l l something of intense wisdom she happened to say, but I think she said i t in complete innocence, just l i k e she'd say, " I t ' s ten o 'c lock at n ight . " She just made an observation, but as i t passed me by i t h i t something deep within me and i t was l i k e an inner explosion. I just f e l l apart . I t was wonderful, although i t d idn ' t seem wonderful at the time. I was in such pain , with th i s explosion going off wi thin me. I know people go through that sort of thing perhaps at a less painful l e v e l when you go to a movie and something happens and you ident i fy with i t and boo hoo hoo hoo. You hope they don't turn the l i g h t s of the theatre on because you're s t i l l weeping and not able to p u l l yourself out of the experience. I t ' s a t o t a l involvement. Well i t was l i k e that for me. I was so involved with th i s implosion, i f I can use the word, where many of the past problems I could see passing before my eyes and d i s s i p a t i n g . I mean I remembered ugly experiences, hideous conversations, threatening people, or perhaps threatening s i t u a t i o n , not the people. I heard them in a threatening way. It a l l jus t , not 187 exactly vanished, because vanished i s instantaneous, but l i k e f ireworks, you know. There's an explosion and gently things f a l l . The f i r e goes out. I could see the pattern of what was happening to me, or experience that . K: Were you s t i l l standing with her? C: No th i s was . . . she f i n a l l y l e f t after a couple of hours when she rea l i zed I was able to be l e f t , but t h i s parade of past memory continued for another couple of hours. K: Were you s t i l l in th i s room with everybody? C: No. We had retreated to my own bedroom because I was making such a fool of myself sobbing and carry ing on. K: So you both went to your bedroom together: Did you t e l l her about these things? C: Oh yes. I kept saying oh M th i s and oh M that . K: As the fireworks were exploding, you were t e l l i n g her what was going on? C: Yes, tha t ' s r i g h t . Because as each firework l i g h t came before my eyes, again with a memory of th i s or that , or th i s i n j u s t i c e , or oh poor me, a l l those th ings . She just sat there and smiled and was gentle and calming to me, "Oh C tha t ' s a l l just past now," you know, "You have today," and so forth and so on. K: How did you feel in her presence? You had a l l t h i s pain going on. C: Oh just great. But I was now able to unite the two halves of myself just a l i t t l e b i t . At points when she'd speak with me, I ' d say, "Of course, you're r i g h t . " And I could see that I was no longer harboring negative feel ings about the memory. That the memory was coming, I was bringing i t forward, looking at i t and l i k e the Wicked Witch of the East saying, "Begone," so that she was some kind of a ca ta lys t to that for me. And then after she r ea l i zed I was in a space wherein should these memories go on a b i t more .I was in con t ro l , could handle i t , could see the process and could help i t vanish on my own. To a greater or less degree that i s what happened, except that that very shattering sobbing continued, almost wondering i f you'd be able to draw another breath, continued and the memories continued and the sobbing, and 188 kind of fee l ing sorry for that poor person that had been through that in a s i tua t ion where she could not see where to go. There apparently was no help at hand and i t was l i k e watching a death of myself in those years, th ink ing , "You poor l i t t l e dear. You worked so hard to get through that and you just d idn ' t have the tools to solve that ." So i t was l i k e seeing that poor l i t t l e thing die again and more of th i s sobbing, a gr ieving kind of f ee l i ng . And yet an instant jump again to the r e a l i t y Of i t ' s gone. I was aware that my mind was in a pret ty good state even though I was experiencing negatives, wow was the mind ever working. And as each memory released, the more I was aware, "I have a t e r r i f i c mind." K: So there was a b u i l d i n g . As one thing l e t go, others b u i l t up? C: Absolute ly , absolu te ly . It was a strengthening because . . . we l l i f you put mud in a glass of water, in a few hours or a day the mud se t t l es out and you've got more pure water. That was exact ly what was happening. The mud in my mind was d i s s ipa t ing and the c l a r i t y of the water was what I was experiencing in that I r ea l i zed my mind was c lea r ing and that i t was a good mind. I t could do a l l t h i s . I t was a l l happening. I t was r e a l l y a purging and yet I r e c a l l too going to bed s t i l l troubled and t i r e d because i t was a very t i r i n g experience. K: I t wasn't over when you went to bed? C: No, I thought, "Wel l , w e ' l l take th i s up in the morning." K: But you had already moved to a very dif ferent place when you went to sleep? C: Yes. Yes. K: Can you say more about how that place was different from before? C: Well I was t i r e d l i k e I had been running for 15 mi les , just a phys ica l experience of being t i r e d , of course emotionally drained, mentally fat igued. And I got into bed just . . . of course i t was into the morning. I t was about a quarter to two in the morning. So that, plus having gone through a busy day, I was r e a l l y just a limp dishrag. But I r e c a l l the physica l pos i t ion when I crawled into bed just a l l r o l l e d up in the f e t a l pos i t ion and s t i l l sobbing. And I dare say I sobbed myself to 189 sleep. K: Did you have any thoughts while you were sobbing and going to sleep? C: Ya. What's going to become of me? What's going to happen next? Where do I go from here? Gosh I'm 35, or whatever age I was. What a waste my l i f e has been. Can one begin again? So in a sense I was at a t r a n s i t i o n point between being locked into concrete but not knowing how, what, where, why, when of my l i f e . . . j u s t , you know, I 've blown i t . Is i t possible to rebuild? Because, you know, i f you've never been through a r eb i r th you don't know. You're just l o s t . Here you are, t h i s l i t t l e b i r d who's been forced out of the nest and you don't know where to f l y . You're unsure you can f l y . But I was too t i r e d to r e a l l y be too concerned about i t that night . But that was my fee l ing , just being, "Oh my God, I 've blown i t . How could I have done th i s to myself? How did I get into th i s space? What w i l l I do? Where do I go? I mean, who w i l l I ask? Wel l , I can ' t worry about i t r ight now. Sob, sob, sob." And I don't remember any especial dreaming state , although dreams are supposed to go on and I do dream every night and can r e c a l l dreams when I get up. In contrary to a lo t of people I dream in c o l o r . But I don't r e c a l l . . . I think I was just too t i r e d . I think I just went zonk. But I wakened and i t was kind of . . . w e l l , I don't just know what wakened me because i t wasn't a noise, but I remember waking, eyes wide open, just bang, but no s t a r t l e , just as i f you answer a telephone, the b e l l stops r inging when you answer. I opened my eyes and the sleeping stopped. I was wide awake whereas quite often I open my eyes normally and I'm s t i l l s leeping. That dream state i s s t i l l there and I'm s t i l l kind of semi-involved although, I see my walls and room and the plants and so fo r th , but the mind i s s t i l l engaged in the night time a c t i v i t y . This was d i f f e ren t . The mind was in the room and very aware that i t was awake. But the body was f l a t out on i t ' s back, with a Cheshire gr in on i t ' s face and my hands folded, l i k e a pious sa in t , across my chest and I f e l t someone was about to throw holy water. I mean, I just had that quie t , put together f ee l ing . And then of course I looked, and there were these nine people, these bodies around my bed. Four of them I recognized and the f ive at the end of the bed, I d i d n ' t . I ' d never seen them. There was no cogni t ion at a l l . But i t was the most marvelous f e e l i n g . I t was neither exh i l a ra t ing nor f r ightening . I t was very na tura l , a very happy f ee l ing , but not happy l i k e you just won a car , a happy fee l ing of 190 contentment, more. But i t was . . . I want to say extraordinary, but i t wasn't . I mean i t ' s kind of a hard space to describe. I don't think I 've described i t to myself before, but I . . . i f I say I was amazed, tha t ' s wrong too. I t was just a very pleasant sight l i k e going to an art ga l l e ry and seeing a very beaut i ful pa in t ing . You're pleased, but you're neither surprised nor . . . because i t ' s part of you perhaps. You know, they say beauty i s in the eye of the beholder, so i f you f ind a paint ing tha t ' s beau t i fu l , i t ' s an inner fee l ing and then maybe you recognize the a r t i s t ' s t a l en t . K: So your f i r s t ove ra l l impression was an inner fee l ing of . . . C: Of beauty perhaps and contentment and oh yes, I 've heard about t h i s , l i k e you'd heard about a famous paint ing or something and then you saw i t and you were pleased, but i t belonged. K: Did you have feel ings of calm and peace and the smile on your face before you looked up and saw these people? C: Yes. Yes. When I opened my eyes . . . of course one thing was almost on top of the other, but my eyes were open and I was in t h i s wonderful space, and you know, your per ipheral v i s i o n , you don't have to turn. Your per ipheral v i s i o n catches t h i s . But the f i r s t experience when I awakened was that the mind was awake and then the eyes saw. And of course your peripheral v i s i o n , and I sort of was aware that the eyes d id move and I looked and I recognized S, who was the teacher, at that weekend, and Maharishi , who has brought t h i s teaching to the world, and Jesus, who i s ex t r ao rd ina r i ly handsome, but not in a Paul Newman way. I mean, i t ' s a t ru th and beauty kind of handsome, and Moses, who i s . . . Moses was very o l d , white ha i r , lovely l i n e s , Jesus has no l i n e s , much more o i l y s k i n . Moses i s pink and white, beaut i ful skin as w e l l , but Jesus' skin i s more Middle Eastern in colour . Maharishi and S of course are Indian so that the i r skin again has that Indian tone . . . nature to i t . K: Were those four beside you? C: Yes, those four were beside me, but then there were three standing across the end of the bed. This was a s ingle bed, by the way, and there were two people looking in between the shoulders of the three. I . . . I mean that was 1969 and I s t i l l have not had any reve la t ion , i f you w i l l , as to who they were. 191 K: How were they dressed? C: Well a l l these people were in white. Now whether that i s a symbolic th ing, or whether i t was an actual dress, an actual set of robes, I have no idea. K: Where were the i r hands? C: Their hands were just hanging beside the i r s ides . There was no sort of prayerful pos i t ion or anything. They were just to a l l intents and purposes, normal people standing, looking at something, except the i r focus was myself. K: Did you get a fee l ing from them? C: Oh absolu te ly . When you're standing beside, s h a l l we say, someone you love, and I put i t that way because i f I were to say, when you're standing beside your mother, that doesn't necessar i ly always mean you have a loving r e l a t i onsh ip . Some people don ' t . But when you're standing beside someone that . . . a dear, dear close f r iend , i t could be a mother because she could be a dear close f r i end , but that wonderful fee l ing that . . . wel l the other side of i t i s you can wear an expression which bespeaks that you've just los t your best f r iend , so in other words that t i e or bonding that goes on between someone you dearly love i s exactly how I f e l t with these people, e spec ia l ly the four. Because I knew of them and I had of course been in S's c lass the previous day. I had heard of a s t r a l t r a v e l , but I had never done i t nor had I been v i s i t e d before, so i t c e r t a in ly was not anywhere l i k e I ' d thought of being v i s i t e d by a ghost as a youngster, but i t was a l l p o s i t i v e , but not "Oh wow." I t was more l i k e looking at a beaut i ful sunset or a beaut i ful sunrise, the t r a n q u i l i t y and contentment, return to the womb fee l ing , no problems, l i f e i s wonderful. K: And what you f e l t emanating from them was love? C: Love l i k e I have never known. Total acceptance. Total understanding. Do you remember I used a few moments ago, the leaves on the tree, you know, one not taking up anyone e l s e ' s space, there 's a space for every l ea f . I think that was the f i r s t moment of my fee l ing that there was a place for me in the universe, just as I was. These people looked at me with th i s f ee l i ng . Or at least they looked at me and my feelings of that look were that I belonged, I was okay, I would make i t , I had a l l 1 92 the ingredients , they respected me. I t ' s okay C. But there was not the okay C l i k e a condescension, just something between i t ' s okay C and what's your problem? Because that begs the question on both s ides . I t was jus t , "Well we're here and we're a l l together and nothing •is out tune. Nothing i s out of order. We're here and y o u ' l l be fine and there 's nothing to worry about." But when you say there 's nothing to worry about, that kind of implies condescension. There was none of that . I f I can just take a few seconds, maybe there are other words. I t ' s rather l i k e looking at a pic ture of a man on a book. The pic ture i s inanimate so you can look at i t and there 's no negative or pos i t ive that th i s person i s r e f l e c t i n g . The person in the pic ture i s simply a r e f l e c t i on of the rea l thing and so there 's no emotion in the image, in the p ic tu re , about how you are, or what you are. I t ' s just . . . the pic ture i s there and you're there. I think when I looked at these people i t was kind of l i k e that . There was l o t s of space for everybody. I t was . . . you know, "We've not come to surprise you, or shock you, or encourage you, or be superior to you. I t ' s just . . . t h i s i s another fact of l i f e and here we are ." But they were the epitomy of beauty and wisdom, the absence of a r t i f i c e . For example i f you go to a symphony and something s t r ikes you as inc red ib ly beau t i fu l , you feel that in the i n t e r i o r . I t i s beyond desc r ip t ion . That was that experience. I knew i t was the ultimate in beauty, the ultimate in wisdom, the ultimate in contentment and acceptance. But i t wasn't an emotional language. I t was a language of the universe. These are th ings . This i s r e a l . So i t wasn't to be traded by a cul ture to say, "Oh w e l l , because you're seeing t h i s , i t means that . . . " I t was a complete recognit ion of the r e a l i t y , the zeni th of t ru th in l i g h t , the zeni th of wisdom, the zeni th of beauty. More an inner experience than an outer observation. But I don't know who these 5 people were, but I hope before I die that I f ind out. K: Did they look l i k e they were from the past? C: You see, I just . . . I don't have anything to attach them to . I don't know. The next afternoon when I went to see S he sa id , "Were you aware of my presence?" I said yes and he kind of laughed, you know, and said something t o t a l l y unrelated. He sa id , "Have you always had freckles?" Only he c a l l e d them "freggles ." So he was aware he was there. K: Did they stay around your bed for a while? 193 C: It could have been 20 minutes, i t may have been 30 seconds, because I am t o l d that in an experience l i k e that there i s no time measure and I d idn ' t have a c lock . K: And during your experience you couldn ' t measure the time? C: I c o u l d n ' t . I would say probably .the shorter than the longer. But by the same token I remember having a conversation once with a person when my eyes were closed and when I opened my eyes 25 minutes had gone by and i t seemed l i k e maybe 5 or 10. So i t was the exquisiteness of the time, not the length of i t , that mattered. But i t was long enough for me to be able to see S and th ink ing , "Well you da r l ing person that you cared th i s much." I remember seeing that and then recognizing that Maharishi had come and then Jesus and then Moses and who knows. Maybe Buddha was one of them except I . . . . my concept of Buddha on th i s plane was that he was kind of tubby. But none of these f ive was p a r t i c u l a r l y tubby. K: You l a i d there for that length of time, fee l ing at a very deep l e v e l . Can you say any more about that feel ing? C: I f e l t heightened, but heightened in the middle, i f that makes any sense. I had t h i s exquis i te fee l ing . . . but an exquis i te fee l ing that was strengthening in the middle of my set of p o l a r i t i e s . Because I am one to get very . . . or have been up u n t i l maybe 4 or 5 years ago, could go down and feel a heightened fee l ing at the depth. "Wow, I'm r e a l l y suf fe r ing ," you know and l i k e a manic-depressive, go up to the manic phase where I was just dancing above the world. But t h i s was strengthening where I wanted to l i v e , something that I could hold on to and something that would stay. I think back over time, that that may be one of the things that has been added to my l i f e to get me out of t h i s manic-depressive s tate , or whatever I was i n . Because we're a l l i nc l ined to one or the other of these states and they say when you go crazy you just follow your natural bent. So as I have matured I have held onto the these basics in the middle, the strengths in the middle of the p o l a r i t i e s . The p o l a r i t i e s have tended to shrink and there 's more of me tha t ' s s o l i d , in the middle. K: Did the people v i s i t i n g you just disappear and you go back to sleep? C: No, they disappeared. I may have slept for a moment 1 94 or two. That I don't r e a l l y . . . yes, I guess I d i d . Because I remember get t ing out of the bed when they weren't there, going to the window, looking out the window l i k e I had just come from Mars, and had just landed on planet Ear th , and looked at grass l i k e I had never seen green grass before. It was sharper green. K: Was t h i s in the morning by then? C: Yes. I t was, I would assume . . . wel l t h i s was in la te May so i t could have been 6:00 or 6:15 because i t ' s l i g h t then. The- blades of grass a l l just seemed to be so precious, so v i v i d . The birds . . . I mean i t was l i k e I hadn't heard birds before. The song was c lea re r , l o v e l i e r , hung in the s i r , c lear and c r y s t a l . My ears seemed to be sharper perhaps. I remember turning away from the window and looking at the room and experiencing a memory in my childhood of th inking what a wonderful world i t i s . What a marvelous thing th i s i s to be a l i v e . But s t rangely, and t h i s i s the f i r s t time I r ea l i zed that , I d idn ' t think anything about the night before. There was no negative. I just r ea l i zed that th i s very moment. It was a l l new. K: Do you mean the pain no longer existed? C: Apparently. Because i t c e r t a i n ly wasn't there. I 've had memories since then. But at that moment, I r e a l i z e , I turned and I thought, "Oh i s n ' t t h i s wonderful to be a l i v e . " I just was brim f u l l of good fee l ings , wonderful mind, wonderful set of emotions, happy, happy f ee l ing . I went to the mirror and I looked and there was a l l t h i s beaming on my face, the eyes a l l upturned and th i s natural smile . I remember sort of f loa t ing into breakfast, "M, h e l l o . How are you th i s morning?" And she was looking very concerned. "Did you sleep?" "Oh M, I 've had th i s wonderful experience. B l a , b l a , b l a , " just brimming. And then I remember we were a l l to go down to a lecture at 11:00 at the centre, and somebody had a conver t ib le . . . my God. It was me. I sn ' t that funny. I s t i l l have that ca r . But indeed, you see I was more l i k e a passenger in my own car . But I remember d r iv ing from the un ivers i ty downtown and there were three people s i t t i n g on the back par t . You know, you put the top down and here are the seats. And on the top of the back of the second seat there were three people just qu ie t ly s i t t i n g sort of experiencing, I guess, the scene. Wow, th i s i s V. Look at the mountains. And I guess the car seemed to be driven because I r ea l i ze I was more a passenger than the d r i v e r . But experiencing V. l i k e I ' d 195 just a r r ived , but I obviously knew where I was going and stopped at the stop l i g h t s and so for th . K: Did you t e l l your fr iend about your experience? C: No. I think I t o ld her enough at breakfast time for her to r ea l i ze she l e f t at the r ight time, that I was launched and she could get on with her own l i f e and sometime I would share the experience, but that I sa id , "It was fabulous," and she could t e l l , because I mean with 14 at breakfast you can ' t t e l l her. I d idn ' t r e a l l y want to d ivulge . I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with a l l th i s experience. I wanted to kind of treasure i t and figure out, you know, "C, d id you r e a l l y experience that or were you asleep?" Because people had always said to me, "You know C, you have such a l i v e l y imagination that maybe such and so just d idn ' t happen." And I thought, "Wel l , I'm not going to t e l l anybody a l l of t h i s , because I know what happened and I don't want anybody ra ining on my parade. Thank-you very much." So i t took a time to sort of savour and digest and f ind out. However I d id have an opportunity of speaking with S that morning and I t o l d him and he sa id , "Oh yes," per fec t ly na tu r a l l y . So I knew i t was mine and that i t was r e a l . But then, just because I do have rather an inqui r ing mind, I kind of l i k e d to know why i t happened. A lo t of people would just say fan tas t i c . I sn ' t that wonderful that i t happened to me. But I don't know. I just kind of wanted to f ind out, so as further experiences began to happen to me I wanted to know i f the answer d id l i e in physics or ari thmetic or whatever d i s c i p l i n e . And I found a lo t of answers, the connection of the human being to the universe at la rge . K: Is that what you f e l t l i k e you touched? C: I touched the universe. I touched the face of God. I touched the l eve l of creat ion which l i e s below the atomic l e v e l . That 's where i t comes from. It i s a b l i s s f u l fee l ing to think I was one of those who was given the opportunity to have universa l knowledge. Now that sounds very grand, because there 's much I don't understand and I can ' t even balance my bank book. There's a lo t to be learned. But i f we put i t t h i s way. If you can understand the tree of l i f e , you understand how every tree grows. It i s n ' t to say you know every bark and every leaf and every flower of every t ree , but you understand the l i f e of the t ree . And that was what I f e l t I was able to touch, the creat ion of the s tars , the animals, the universe, an Afr ican v i o l e t , a baboon, and 196 myself, my fellow man, an Eth iopian , an Indian. It has given me a tremendous ins ight into the creat ion of the world. Wonderful, wonderful experience. A l so , i f you have self-doubt and misunderstandings about yoursel f , t h i s brings the necessary humi l i ty . . . a f r iend of mine said to me the other day she has a friend who i s proud of her humi l i ty , and I wondered i f that wasn't myself because I was pretending for so many years that I r e a l l y began to believe my own ac t . And then when a l l that was crumbled and I found out who I was, i t i s just wonderful. 3ut i t makes me understand everybody else and the problems they go through and there 's kind of an instant rapour. I t ' s a marvelous fee l ing to be humbled. Maybe you don't always stay down there, but i t ' s a wonderful place to s tar t from, I th ink, in your growth. I t brings a more s t a b i l i z i n g factor into your l i f e , or i t has for me. Maybe i t depends where you get on t h i s f e r r i s wheel of l i f e . Maybe I started at the top and had to get o f f . Maybe some people s tar t at the bottom and then r i s e . But I had the feel ing I was a young g i r l in a hurry.and maybe I caused a lo t of my own disas ters because I d idn ' t understand enough about l i f e , so I learned the wrong things, a l l of which were wel l intended and when th i s poor l i t t l e s e l f , that was set in concrete was released, the union of the inner se l f and the outer se l f was a very happy marriage. And i t r e a l l y opened my eyes to my fellow man and an understanding of l i f e , why there are poor, why there are s i ck , why there are needy, why there are happy, why there are deformed, why there are f reck led . I t ' s where that energy impulse comes into l i f e . I just found i t , looking back over time, since th i s experience, any of the downs I kind of got in to , I remembered that moment when a l l those guys were in my room and I think I'm not going to go down there. I haven't got the time to get back up. You just know you're going to get through i t , so game over. I kind of put the emotional garbage out at night and went on more j o y f u l l y the next day saying I 've only got today to l i v e so I'm going to maximize on that . So I think I have tended to put a better qua l i ty of a t t i tude into my days and l e t the other kind of work i t s e l f out. I seconded the worry to the joy of the day. Feeling the joy was more important. K: When you think of those men and the i r existence in your l i f e , what i s i t that they do for you? C: Well now, I t e l l you, i t ' s not only a psychological support knowing that i f they 're that close at hand, i f I can sense the i r presence, i f they 're looking out for me 1 97 although I can ' t perceive them r ight here. They are there. Because that l e v e l of l i g h t ex i s t s by E i n s t e i n ' s theory. It ex i s t s a l l the time, a l l the time. K: Are you saying that they're always there for support for you? C: Yes. Always there. Having had that experience of seeing what ex is t s a l l the time. Everything that we don't perceive, because the eye only perceives a cer ta in octave, i f I can use that term, a cer ta in octave of v i b r a t i o n , i t i s n ' t to say there aren ' t other v ibra t ions there. I'm t o l d that what we perceive with the human eye i s only one-half of o n e - b i l l i o n t h of a l l that i s around us to be perceived. So okay, I know, through the experience, but I 've also had i t supported through the mental co l l abora t ion , that i t ' s there for my support. So I can ' t go too far wrong. I'm going to get nudged by somebody. But on the other l e v e l , knowing that whatever I'm asked to go through i s going to turn out for my benef i t . So I may have doubts and I may be a b i t depressed and I may withdraw. Funnily enough, I don't use the word depressed, because depressed implies a going down below and yet when you examine what's going on in a depression you are withdrawing and you're cocooning a b i t and you're being quiet and you're th inking and you're kind of get t ing r i d of some negat iv i ty and when you've resolved i t you come up with more energy. So I kind of l i k e to say withdraw because, in a sense, what I see in my own mind going on i s s imi l a r to an archer who has the bow in one hand and he takes the s t r ing and arrow in another and withdraws and in so doing i s gathering f i f t y times, a hundred times more power to release the arrow than i f he'd thrown the arrow with h is hand. And so I 've found in my experiences of withdrawing that once I got r i d of the negat iv i ty I was inc red ib ly much more powerful afterwards. My act ion was more dynamic. My happiness was more acute. My understanding of what I had gone through was c l ea re r . K: Were you able to take those new feel ings you had after your experience and act within your family s i tua t ion . . . whatever was causing your pain? C: Yes. I remember going back home and having dinner that evening. Of course I walked into t h i s absolutely beaut i fu l house. I mean i t was beau t i fu l , but I had grown numb, I suppose. So I saw the wallpaper and my paint ings and my lovely possessions anew. And then when the family came running and we sat down at dinner, I 198 remember looking into the faces of my chi ldren and th ink ing , "My God, aren ' t you beau t i fu l ! " I just had again t h i s s imi la r feel ing to the morning of looking at the grass and seeing each blade . . . th inking over time that I had looked at grass in a mass and now I was looking at the blades. And when I looked at my chi ldren I knew who they were, but I could see the beauty of the i r eyes and the i r eyelashes and the shine on the i r faces. I could see more of the i r sou l . I could see the qua l i ty of the i r s k i n . I t wasn't just a blob. I think I had numbed my perception because I was in such a dreadful space before. So I had been given new eyes. The windows of my perception had been washed. The dust and g r i t that had clouded the panes of glass which were my eyes were cleansed. I t was a feel ing of, "How had I missed a l l t h i s beaut i ful face before? Aren ' t you absolutely l ove ly , and my goodness, you're mine." I t was just a more heightened feel ing than the morning. I t kind of grew throughout the day l i k e yeast slowly r i s i n g in bread, that i t takes two hours for the dough to come up. W e l l , i t took the yeast of t h i s experience to l e t the dough of my perception heighten to that point in the day where I could see these marvelous people. I t was just wonderful. But i t wasn't heightened to the point of phys ica l adrenal in . Maybe there was some adrenalin but i t wasn't that heightened fee l ing that you get after you've played tennis , or after you've run and the body feels wonderful. I t was that feel ing without the adrenalin pumping. The body was calm, but the mind and emotions were very recept ive. K: What happened to everyday l i f e ? C: Wel l , I guess things looked much bet ter . I ' d say I was on a gentle high for maybe s ix months. I found deeper meaning in things that I read. I found I was addressing another l e v e l of person when I spoke to somebody. I f e l t I understood more from people who were perhaps saying the same things . But I heard things d i f f e r e n t l y . I understood things d i f f e r e n t l y . My da i l y l i f e seemed more j o y f u l . From the sublime to the r i d i c u l o u s , I found just in cleaning a t o i l e t , i t was nothing. I d idn ' t have any attachment or any feel ings of "Oh gosh I have to do t h i s t o i l e t again." I t was just l i k e brushing your teeth. You just do i t . The tone of l i f e improved. The i ron ing , the dish washing, not that I d id dishes because I had a dishwasher, the mundane things seemed less mundane. There was no emotion attached to them. They were done. My mind seemed then to have more time to think about more important things. So to the 199 point now where in the days here we are with fabric softeners and no iron c l o t h i n g , I use the i r o n . I use a lo t of my b r i d a l things, a l l these years o l d , because I l i k e them and time i s get t ing short and why use paper when I have a l l these beaut i ful l inens , and i t takes maybe half an hour to iron servie t tes and place mats, but i t ' s a non-physical thing and I think some of my most l u c i d thoughts while I'm i ron ing . I t ' s a veh i c l e . So in other words, I don't f ind any of my housework boring. I don't f ind i t r epe t i t i ous . I t ' s a question of not feel ing emotionally involved and that my l i f e i s boring and that tha t ' s a l l I can do. Because since that experience and since these mundane things have become a nonattachment to me, I have found the energies to do diverse th ings . So I have been able to expand my l i f e on the crea t ive l e v e l . I s tarted to pot and I'm good at i t . I haven't done any for a couple of years, but I used to s e l l in three stores. But tha t ' s i r r e l evan t . I found that I could do i t . And I would go down to my workshop to pot for an hour and a hal f and f ive hours would have gone by. And tha t ' s l o v e l y , in the middle of the day when your ch i ldren are off at school to f ind that you have t h i s beaut i ful l i f e to l i v e , and your beaut i ful soul to be with and your beaut i fu l mind to be wi th . And here I never thought.I could do anything c rea t ive , I mean k n i t t i n g and crocheting which i s l ove ly , but th i s i s more. So I found I could do that wel l and then started to play the recorder. And again tha t ' s something I could do on my own. I took lessons, d id i t enough wherein I could prac t i se everyday and get great pleasure out of my own time. But I found that there was, I 've forgotten the term, I ' l l say overflow, but there was a benefit to the family because I was fee l ing contented. I loved my l i f e . I found the volunteer work that I d i d , I was get t ing better at i t . My a b i l i t y to speak. I was more content you see in my role as president or membership secretary. K: Was i t l i k e you were doing the same things, but they weren't a charade anymore? C: Right . It was r e a l . I t was l i k e . . . you know in the summertime you have the hose out and you bend the hose and the water doesn't come from the bend to the spout, so that when you move i t you can unkink the hose and the water rushes out again. I think that was myself. Over time there was a kink and just because you and I are cha t t ing , I ' l l say I imposed i t , I won't say society imposed i t . But I was not able to f i t into society as I thought I was expected. So whatever these r e s t r i c t i o n s were, were l i k e the kink in the hose. But way back 200 there, coming from the source were talents and a b i l i t i e s and po ten t ia l which were being stopped at the kink. When I l e t the kink go i t just ran out the spout. So i t was easy. I just went on, e a s i l y , being involved where I was, Meals on Wheels, courses at the un ive r s i t y , playing with my ch i ld ren , going s k i i n g , going s a i l i n g . Everything was a joy. Well then into the bargain as I grew . . . that was kind of a release so i t was beaut i ful . . . but once the release came and a l l that backlog, then I began to be a b i t more se lec t ive because the mind was sharpened as wel l and my growth was now f u l l y in front of my mind and I began to feel a l i t t l e b i t l i k e a wh i r l ing d i r v i s h , that I wanted to do t h i s and that , t h i s and that . And then I grew t i r e d so I had to se l ec t . So I began to r ea l i ze that my l i f e i s more in my c o n t r o l , that I could do th i s and choose not to do that for a whi le . Or I r e a l l y wanted to do something e l se , take French, or heaven knows, write a book. I haven't got i t published but I 've got i t s ta r ted . So the qua l i ty of my l i f e d e f i n i t e l y improved because I was doing the l i v i n g of i t l i k e a l l those other people I had watched. They were being r e a l , they were being spontaneous and that was what I found. I found my own spontaneity and my own growth. I'm madly in love with l i f e . Someone said in the church with me about las t J u l y , "You glow." But I think, you see, th i s i s a l l because I had a l l that growing to do. I ' d stopped at that kink. Even the people that were in my l i f e around which th i s kink occurred . . . I have so much better a r e l a t ionsh ip now. I haven't damned them. I was b i t t e r about things before, but now I think my gosh, they were just human beings. I mean they made a mistake. Look at a l l the mistakes you've made. I t ' s changed me. But i t ' s a comfort, you see. I . . . maybe l i k e people who haven't had that kind of experience . . . I have had that comfort around me a l l those days and i t ' s always there. I don't have to get down and c a l l out for i t . I t ' s there. I l i s t e n d i f f e r e n t l y . I l i s t e n to a lo t in here, inside myself, my inner nature, my inner God, whatever nomenclature. I l i s t e n to the pattern of events. I'm not rushing off in nine d i rec t ions t ry ing to f ind the pat tern. I l e t the pattern evolve in front of my eyes and then I take the ac t ion . I l i s t e n for the promptings rather than speaking f i r s t and thinking second. I t ' s eas ier . I was doing the e f fo r t . I , the big "S , " the s e l f , the ego was doing the l i v i n g during that long period of time. You can ' t . I t ' s too hard. I t ' s a l l pretense. Your being, the way you're made, i t ' s dying, dying. And now I just am r e a l l y a l i v e . Every day i s a g i f t . 201 K: Do you have anything else that you need to add that might be important to you? C: I have had four revela t ions since that experience which again have tended to underscore that o r i g i n a l experience and so again I fee l t h i s inner strength in the middle of me. K: So you've had things that have b u i l t on and expanded on that f i r s t experience you had, that have allowed more growth and more understanding of who you are? C: Yes. Yes. These v i s ions weren't l i k e the f i r s t . They were in te rna l v i s i o n s . For example, when you are remembering something, l i k e you remember having gone to see "Amadeus" three or four days ago and you remember the actors and the colours of the costumes, the scenery and the music and so fo r th . An in te rna l v i s i o n i s very s imi l a r and i t ' s just as rea l because i t ' s not imagination or h a l l u c i n a t i o n . I t ' s a replay of something in the deep regions of memory, but i t i s you. You know that . I t ' s almost a t a c t i l e sensation. I t ' s instant recognit ion and you know you're the cent ra l character and you don't ident i fy with anybody e l se . You know who you are in that scenario. So these helped explain why various of these unhappy experiences leading up to the kink in the hose took place . I recognized that that lesson, before the kink, had to be learned by me in t h i s l i f e t i m e , because I had done such and so a thing and that had been revealed to me in the revela t ion . . . that now there 's a debt you have to pay. You did x and y and so t h i s person i s brought into your l i f e so you can pay that debt and get r i d of i t . So i t gave me part of my iden t i ty and released me from some hang-ups. I'm sure I s t i l l have a lo t of hang-ups because i s n ' t that part of our l i f e , to t ry to be pure. Someone once said to me, "You've such a wonderful power of a r t i c u l a t i o n and your vocabulary i s so extensive. What are you hiding underneath a l l that perfect ion?" So you see, t h i s in i t s e l f may s t i l l be part of the garbage tha t ' s s t i c k i n g to me. But that i s the i r problem. I l i k e what I 've got now and I d idn ' t before. So how I come on to somebody . . . you can ' t please everybody, but I please a heck of a lo t more people. I 've got the best friends in Christendom, as they say. But I mean obviously you're not going to s t r i ke everyone the same way, but I s t r i ke me a nice way. I d idn ' t s t r i k e me a nice way for years . . . for years. And I think of a l l that wasted l i f e , when you drag yourself around . . . you must be your own best f r i end . I l i k e who I drag around. 202 Transcript (Case G) G: Well the f i r s t time i s the most i so la ted and b r i e f . It doesn't have a great se t t ing around i t of things that had happened. It was part of a ch i ldb r th experience. I t was my f i r s t pregnancy and I was very joyous at being pregnant. The pregnancy had gone on quite long. I was very, very heavy and I was several weeks overdue. The doctor was a b i t worried, but I wasn't . I f e l t quite confident in having the baby. When I started having contractions I f e l t very good about that . I wasn't the least b i t worried. In fact , I f e l t l i k e I was doing what I was meant to do. I went to the hosp i ta l fee l ing very good. My husband couldn ' t stay with me because they d idn ' t have provis ions then for husbands to stay with you. I had, as the contractions got heavier and heavier, a tremendous sense of the whole universe puls ing and contract ing in and out in a wonderful rhythm. I t was just f an tas t i c . I f e l t l i k e I was a part of the cosmic rhythm, and that I r e a l l y d idn ' t have any cont ro l over, that I just had to go with i t . I was doing the breathing that I ' d learned to do, but that was almost unconscious. This disappeared unfortunately. The rest of the c h i l d b i r t h was a nightmare. The doctor had n;ot measured me and the baby's head was too b i g . The baby got stuck and they had to use high forceps and they had to knock me out withy general anaesthetic. The baby died, and i t was an awful nightmare. -But I held on to - th i s memory of what i t had been l i k e u n t i l the time when the baby got stuck. That was so wonderful and I never forgot that . I 've always believed that there i s a cosmic rhythm. I t ' s not as obvious most of the time as i t was to me then. But that our breathing, the thump, thump, thumps of our hearts, the rhythms of the t ides and the movements of the planets , and a l l t h i s s tuff , f i t s in some way into a cosmic contract ion-expansion-contract ion. And in our i n t e r i o r l i v e s there 's that rhythm of contraction-expansion. Rea l i ty tends to contract sometimes. You fee l r e a l i t y i s l i m i t e d . You can ' t go in any d i r e c t i o n . And at other times everything i s opening up for you. That 's the i n t e r i o r ccontraction-expansion. That 's helped me a lo t in my own sene of what l i f e i s a l l about, the sense of rhythms. K: Just before you got that fee l ing in labour, what was happening? Were you in severe pai.n and fee l ing alone? How were you fee l ing just before that? G: Well I was just working very hard. I was just working very hard. You know i t was before . . . there was a lo t 203 of lonel iness la te r because the two nurses who were in the labour room were t a lk ing about the i r Saturday night dates and when they l e f t there was just a d r i p , d r i p , d r ip someplace from a faucet. It was a very lonely experience. But u n t i l I got into the s i t ua t ion of the i n a b i l i t y of the c h i l d to go any further, being blocked, and the t e r r i b l e , unbearable pain from that , I was aware of a l l that . I was conscious and fee l ing good about myself, angry about what was going on. I was angry at the way th i s whole thing was going. K: You mean the nurses and how they treated you? G: Ya. The way labour was handled in those days. The whole experience made me angry. I f e l t the hosp i ta l goofed, the doctor goofed, everybody goofed. K: But your fee l ing about yourself was good? G: Ya. K: Out of that good fee l ing came th i s fee l ing of expansion and cont rac t ion . G: Wel l , I don't know what i t came out of . There's no way of knowing. There was just t h i s fee l ing of being caught in a cosmic rhythm, that I was part of something bigger that was happening and I can ' t be more spec i f i c than that . K: Was i t a sense of euphoria? G: No. It was a sense of joy and strength. That gave me strength, and s t i l l does. The memory of i t makes me feel . . . strength i s the thing that comes mainly to my mind. I t ' s the resul t of that fee l ing that in a sense you're being supported by the ent i re cosmos. K: The strength you f e l t then was something that helped you through the rest of i t ? G: Ya. The rest was so awful and I did have a t e r r i b l e depression afterwards. But that fee l ing I remembered, and held on to that . That tha t ' s the way i t should have been. That that i s the way b i r t h i s , and the fact that my b i r t h hadn't turned out wel l d idn ' t v i t i a t e the beauty and the wonder and the joy of what i t usual ly i s , what a normal b i r t h i s l i k e . I couldn ' t have a normal b i r t h and I had ceseareans afterwards. But that was very joyfu l too. I had a sp inal anaesthetic with the second one so I 204 was conscious, in a lo t of pain and everything, but a lso great joy and a great sense of strength of what the body i s capable of . The body can undergo tremendous pain and then the next day nurse the baby. So my net impression was one of the strength that i s there to support yhou when you need i t , i f you're open to that . So i t goes wrong once in a whi le , because s t a t i s t i c a l l y things don't always go r i g h t . That did help me to accept what happened. K: So i t ' s l i k e you were open to support from other than the nurses or whatever was around you? G: That 's r i g h t . K: You had a sense of being open to that before you went into labour? G: Ya. Ya. And a sense of being, you know, sort of in unison with some . . . some whole natural process, which I ' d had a l l through my pregnancy too. K: So you had an awareness of a process happening wi th in you, that was at a d i f ferent l e v e l from the ordinary? G: Uh huh. Uh huh. Most of the things that go wrong with pregnancies and in c h i l d b i r t h go wrong because of the way we handle them. People don't have enough information. We should have known that baby should have been a cesearean to begin wi th . He d idn ' t r e a l i z e the baby was that b i g . I should have had more information too. I d idn ' t r e a l i ze when I was pregnant the f i r s t time how many things can go wrong. I r e a l l y f e l t nothing could go wrong. I just couldn ' t bel ieve that , so i t was a rea l shock. K: Up u n t i l the point that something d id go wrong, you were s t i l l fee l ing good about your part? G: I had only good a n t i c i p a t i o n . K: Feel ing good about your part of the process of something that was outside of you? G: Uh huh. W e l l , ins ide-outs ide were not d i s t inguished . The inside-outs ide were together. K: Was i t a . . . when you said that you were open . . . you f e l t open to some type of support from elsewhere, can you say anything more about that? 205 G: Well i t just . . . I think my usual a t t i tude i s to be open to whatever i s around me and to be sens i t ive to get t ing v ibra t ions from around me, ei ther threatening or supportive. Only when I myself am very t i r e d and very d is t rac ted and anxious do I not clue into that . Then I w i l l maybe have an accident or something, or I ' l l get sick or whatever. Sickness and health and accidents and so on usual ly come when I'm not in that openness. K: Was that openness something that was cha rac t e r i s t i c of you, or i s that something that has been a resul t of having an experience of being one with? G: No, i t was cha rac t e r i s t i c of me then. I ' d had a psychoanalysis not long before. That had been just one long process of opening up, opening up to pain and opening up to long supressed anxie t ies and fears and what not. But opening up to a person, opening up to people, ' and then opening up to God. I hadn't believed in God before. And i t came to me in a sort of surprise one day that since I now believed in love, maybe I could believe in God, because maybe tha t ' s what God was, the source of love . And that was an opening up. I was able then to love someone e l se , get married and you know, a l l that opening process. And I r e a l l y very much i d e n t i f i e d with the natural world. I had increas ingly come to love the country, the trees and fresh a i r . Even though I was l i v i n g r ight in the heart of N . Y . , I managed to get away many weekends and structure some time up in the country. I spent a lo t of time in my las t few weeks of pregnancy in Central Park. K: Being very aware of the naturalness? G: Ya. Ya. I loved the t rees . K: I ' d l i k e to ta lk a b i t more of exactly what happened with you when you were in labour. Did the sense of oneness just happen suddenly as the pain got to a cer ta in place? G: No. I think i t was just when the contractions got very hard and very frequent. I probably had moments of semi-consciousness or unconsciousness and that might have been during those moments. I t ' s a l l kind of hazy . . . a l l kind of hazy. Just the sense of . . . the kinesthet ic sense of being involved in a huge contraction-expansion experience. I t ' s happening outside of me and inside of me. 206 K: Was your experience with that calming? G: Ya. Strengthening. Strengthening. K: You weren't l y ing in fearful wait for the next contraction? G: No. No. Not at a l l . I was just anxious to get on with i t . K: Did you feel any kind of a presence or that there was something else or someone else there? G: No, I d i d n ' t . But I had a strong sense of God in my whole l i f e at that time. And I f e l t that God was present in whatever was happening. If you stop and look at anything long enough and r e a l l y see i t you also see God, I th ink. So any experience tha t ' s very strong i s r e a l l y an experience of God's presence. The whole universe i s a manifestation of God. K: And when i t got too bad, the rhythm stopped? G: Ya. There was a long drawn out, hours and hours, because i t was a very long labour, before they decided to intervene. And you know, i t was a long time there when I thought I wasn't going to make i t . I d id nearly d i e , and I had that sense, that I maybe was not going to make i t . K: The rhythm part , was i t over a short time, or was i t over a period of hours? G: I don't know. I r e a l l y don't know. I think my whole sense of time was completely screwed up. Because after the very great pain s tar ted, they gave me a l o t of dope, so my time was . . . K: And when you woke up, you found out that the baby had died? G: Ya. They just . . . that was an unforgettable moment. The doctor was looking down and he had t h i s l i g h t on his head, and a l l the people seemed to be standing around in a c i r c l e looking at me with great concern and he sa id , "Mrs. G . , your baby d i ed . " Or something l i k e that . "Mrs. G . , your baby has d i ed . " He said the baby died after b i r t h , 3 minutes a f te r . I ta lked to him la te r about i t . I think . . . my analyst , who was also an M.D. , thought the baby probably died before, but he d idn ' t want i t on his record. He was very proud of 207 having the best record in N .Y . s tate , and never having s t i l l b i r t h s , of having l i v e b i r ths and he wanted a l i v e b i r t h . He had a lo t of power in that hospi ta l and they'd do anything he sa id . But my own sense of i t was that the baby died before, strangled to death in s ide . But the shock was just t e r r i b l e , just t e r r i b l e . K: Did everything just stop for you at that moment? G: Yes. I d idn ' t r e a l l y quite take i t i n . I was in a state of shock, bodily too because i t was a day or two before I f e l t anything. My body was t o t a l l y numb. And then a l l the pain started a day or two l a t e r . I was just r ea l l y numb. When they took me out, my husband had gone home to change his c lo thes . He'd been there for 24 hours and he was t i r e d and sweaty. The pr ies t of the Anglican church that we belonged to was there, a very sweet man, I just loved him, Canadian. And he came over to me and he too had th i s t e r r i b l y concerned look and I sa id , "My baby d ied , " and he sa id , "I know." He bent down and kissed me. And that was so wonderful. I t was also a kind of . . . i t brought me back to being part of the human race again. And he made the sign of the cross over me and I made the sign of the cross , which was a l l I could do. I couldn ' t have said a word. But that was a good experience, that exchange between us was. That has always been my model for hosp i t a l minis t ry every since on how to conduct yoursel f . K: Because i t was so he lpful to you? G: Ya. Just responding to whatever i s happening to the patient and not holding back. If they need to be kissed, or they need to be embraced, i f they need to be prayed for or whatever they need, you just do i t . K: When the pain started coming back and the r e a l i z a t i o n started happening i s that when you remembered your experience and you f e l t the beauty of c h i l d b i r t h ? G: I don't know when that s ta r ted . I don't think I los t that r e a l l y ever. Maybe, you know, after the drugs wore of f . I t would have been a while before the drugs wore off and my mind wouldn't have been c l e a r . K: In p a r t i c u l a r moments of pain about the death of your baby, you'd c l i n g to that fee l ing of expansion and contraction? G: Ya. Ya. The good part of the b i r t h process. 208 K: Did that happen a lo t? G: No. We l l , I tend to re f lec t a good deal about how I f e e l . We are re la ted to creat ion and to God and God to us. And that i s just one element that I go back to in experiences I 've had, sort of c r i t i c a l experiences in which I have some sense of the revealing of hidden forces at work. That 's one I would go back to , as I say the e a r l i e s t and most i so la ted one I can pin down. K: That 's the f i r s t in your mind then? G. Ya. K: And since then you've had more of an unfolding? G: We l l , there have been dif ferent times, yes, at which an experience would sort of draw me in to some functions or way that things are happening that aren ' t usual ly percept ib le . The second time, that I remember very c l e a r l y , I ' d been very depressed. It was r ight after the assassinat ion of President Kennedy in the United States. That was the beginning of a long rather dreary period in American h i s to ry . I got s ick and I just d idn ' t seem to get w e l l . A l l I had was a heavy sinus i n f ec t i on , but I kept running a fever, and I had to take a n t i b i o t i c s to cure i t , and I had a lo t of pain in my head. I was aware of the fact that my family was worried about me, and my friends were worred about me. I couldn ' t seem to p u l l myself out of i t . I ' d s i t by my bedroom window and look out the window. There was a very beaut i ful dogwood tree there. It was November, the end of November, beginning of December, so there were hardly any leaves l e f t on i t . I wasn't even aware, at f i r s t r e a l l y , of no t ic ing th i s t ree. I'm always aware of the trees around us, but I was too sunk in my own pain and d i f f i c u l t y . Then gradually I r ea l i zed I was looking at one branch of that t ree . And one day I had the sense that . . . i t ' s almost inexpl icable . . . but, I could pa r t i c ipa te in the l i f e of that branch. I knew what i t was l i k e in the spr ing, what i t was l i k e in the f a l l , and what i t was l i k e now, a l l through the year. It was a l l . . . i t was as though I was the branch. That was i l l o g i c a l l y very wonderful and beau t i fu l . I mean there 's no reason, log ic l i k e , why i t should be so wonderful to fee l l i k e a branch of a t ree . But i t was, because i t ' s wonderful to enter into the l i f e of something other than yoursel f , no matter what. And I laughed and sa id , " I 've f a l l en in love with a t ree ." But that was the c loses t I could come to saying how I f e l t , that I had so loved that branch that I had 209 entered into i t s l i f e . And I can s t i l l recapture that fee l ing at any time. I can s t i l l recapture that f ee l i ng . I t ' s most mysterious to me. K: What was the feeling? Can you describe i t ? G: No, excepting that I shut my eyes and I know exactly how that branch fee l s , what's happening to i t at any part of i t s cyc l e . The fee l ing i s probably less strong now than i t was then, but i t ' s s t i l l recoverable. I t ' s s t i l l recoverable, but very hard to describe. K: And what did that open you to? G: The oneness of th ings . Of course, again i t ' s opening out, i f you open up to anything. A branch of a tree i s the beginning, and then I can write again. I began to write down my pain and my sorrow and my anguish. I wrote a story about the assass inat ion, but the assassinat ion was oblique to the experience of my c h i l d , my oldest daughter who suffered and was very upset and so on. So I t r i e d to do i t through her eyes. The experience was the prel iminary to being able to do that, to f i n a l l y do something and p u l l myself out of that . K: So once again i t was an opening up and then a strengthening? G: Yes. That 's r i g h t . That 's r i gh t . And something I 've held on to . In d i f f i c u l t times that always comes back to me very s trongly, the experience. K: Which one? The one of the tree? G: Ya. Ya. I 've never los t i t . I t ' s very strong. I t has helped me to understand. I 've only recently understood that to "know" the other in the B i b l i c a l sense of to enter i n to . The Hebrew "know" i s to sleep wi th , to have sexual intercourse wi th . To know something that in t imately i s very rare and very d i f f i c u l t and i t does then open you e n t i r e l y . Because to know anything other than yourself i s to know God, because God i s the Other. I t i s rare that that happens to us that we're able and w i l l i n g . We're so sunk in our . . . in some c r i s i s , that i t happens without our conscious. Normally we are so preoccupied by the d a i l y necess i t ies of experiences in our l i v e s that we don't take time to open ourselves to that type of experience. How many other times am I going to s i t in front of a window and look at a branch of a tree for months? 210 K: So for both of those occasions i t was a time when you had nothing to do but focus on where you were and what was happening to you? G: That 's r i g h t , ya . Your t o t a l consciousness i s t o t a l l y focused and absorbed. That 's helpful to say that . Ya. Ya. And tha t ' s b a s i c a l l y what wr i t ing i s . It helped me to understand the wr i t ing process too. K: So after the branch, you were able to move out and l e t go of some of your pain? G: Ya, express i t in the s tory. Then I wrote a ser ies of s to r ies which helped me to uncover layers and layers of pa in . I t wasn't a psychoanalyt ical type of th ing . I t was more by using the short story form of being able to transform the pain and the anger and the anxiety into something beau t i fu l . I was also working through a l o t of anxiety about death and the s tor ies helped me to do that , to transform death into l i f e by w r i t i n g . K: And you transformed death into l i f e by remembering the good part of the b i r th? G: Ya. Ya. And my older daughter transforms her anx ie t i e s , her death f ee l ing , by doing p ic tu res . I had a lo t of anxiety about her. That was always part of my pain because she was a dys lexic c h i l d and she had some brain unbalance. K: L e t ' s see. I ' d l i k e to summarize what you've said and p u l l i t together in my own mind. So these experiences have come out of painful times. G: Ya. Uh huh. K: When you've been in a s i tua t ion where you've had no choice but to focus. G: Ya. Confined p h y s i c a l l y , emotionally and mentally. K: So you're fee l ing phys i ca l ly weak and i l l a l so , in both of them? G: Ya. I'm i s o l a t i n g myself. In the f i r s t experience I have to be in the labour room, but in the second one, I'm re t rea t ing from people and from my d a i l y l i f e and from the usual sort of th ings . K: Experiences of i so l a t ion? 21 1 G: Uh huh. The second time i t ' s r e a l l y my own doing. The f i r s t time i t ' s necessi ty . K: And then the second time there seemed to be a longer process of awareness happening. G: Ya. I t acts more l i k e get t ing born, l i k e coming out of the uterus, the sickroom being a kind of big uterus, you know, and gradually opening my eyes, and gradually focusing and gradually entering into l i f e through that branch of the t ree . K: And you had no idea when that occurred? I t was just a process? G: No, no. It wasn't r e a l l y a sharp moment, suddenly. K: Was i t over.a period of days or weeks? G: Over a period of weeks. K: Did you have any type of feel ings in your body? G: No. I t ' s an in te rna l kind of thing which I . . . I feel i t . But I can ' t say that i t ' s my body feel ing i t . I t ' s my consciousness tha t ' s fee l ing i t . I t ' s a consciousness which doesn't reproduce i t s e l f somat ica l ly . K: So you would hardly describe i t as a kinesthet ic experience. G: I t ' s mainly v i sua l imagery as I experience i t though. And yet i t seems to come from the inside out. K: The inside of the branch out? G: Ya. Ya. K: But as you experience i t you see the branch from the inside? G: Ya, inside and outs ide. K: So you see r ings . You see bark. G: Ya. Ya. And There's darkness inside and l i g h t outside. (long s i lence) K: Were you there? 212 G: Yes. K: Is there a di f ferent fee l ing from being on the inside as to being on the outside of i t ? G: Ya. But there 's no sharp difference between ins ide-outs ide . I t ' s mainly . . . w e l l , inside-outside are not meaningful. Like object-subject are not meaningful. The whole experience i s the o b l i t e r a t i o n of object-subject . K: So you're not the watcher and i t ' s not the thing tha t ' s being watched? G: That 's r i g h t . K: So in a way you're saying that you enter into i t s l i f e and i t a lso enters into your l i f e . G: The bar r ie r s are gone. And tha t ' s what's so f an tas t i c . K: And by being open to that happening, i t ' s a strengthening, a focusing? G: Oh ya. I t ' s a tremendous sense of wonder and a sense of joy and peace, very peaceful. And la ter on, only much l a t e r , years and years l a t e r , does i t become also r a t i o n a l l y sa t i s fy ing because I r e a l i z e that t h i s i s the subject-object bar r ie r broken down. This I don't a r t i c u l a t e at a l l for many, many years. I t ' s just I ' d re-experience i t and I ' d love i t and think i t ' s wonderful and I ' d feel very peaceful. I always remember that and I fee l great hope and joy, a l l the good fee l ings . But then many years l a t e r , when I'm wr i t i ng about th i s experience in connection with some other experiences, I r e a l i z e , "Oh ya. Now I understand. What I have done i s crashed through th i s . . . t h i s b a r r i e r . " And whenever we crash through a ba r r i e r , whether i t ' s a time ba r r i e r , or a space b a r r i e r , or an object-subject ba r r i e r , there i s a great sense of triumph, because i t i s a triumphant experience . . . that we have gone beyond our normal l i m i t a t i o n s . We have stretched our wings. K: And s t re tching those wings makes i t easier to be here? G: Well i t makes me more here, ya. That 's part of the here. That the here i s much bigger, that r e a l i t y i s much greater than we usual ly are open to understanding. And that understanding r e a l i t y i s understanding God. Or not 213 understanding, we don't understand r e a l i t y , but we have these perceptive experiences of i t , that make us r ea l i ze that r e a l i t y i s o r d i n a r i l y very l im i t ed and narrow, that we confine ourselves to a pret ty small r e a l i t y , and once one has had a glimpse of the bigger r e a l i t y , tha t ' s very e x c i t i n g . I t makes the normal days happier too because they're always there. K: Because you can carry them with you? G: Ya. Ya. And they can happen again, in d i f ferent ways. K: And once you'd experienced that , d id you f ind i t happened more often or that you were more open to i t happening? G: More open to i t happening. But I don't have these tremendously big experiences that often. But l i t t l e experiences re la te to that . Well I guess seeing things as they are. I t ' s also again t h i s sense of r e a l i t y , that I became aware of how much by focusing on myself I l i m i t , that i f I would look at branches more often, you know. And tha t ' s been a great joy to me. I have most of my happiest moments outdoors and th i s sense of the wonder of the whole universe does come on me whenever I walk by the sea, or go in the woods. That 's a just never f a i l i n g source of strength. K: Do you ever f ind yourself . . . what do you do now when you're depressed? G: Go in the woods or go by the sea. K: And do you feel l i k e tha t ' s a d i rec t resul t of experiences that came from the environment? G: Ya, experiences I 've had by the sea and in the woods. K: Do you f ind yourself yearning for more of what you've had? G: Well I do. Once in a while I go and I just stay a day, a week, a month, two months by myself in the country. I do that , because when I f ind I 'm.get t ing t i r e d or anxious or just not experiencing l i f e in a r e a l l y up l i f t ed way, then I do that . That 's my way of going on re t rea t . I go to a f r i end ' s cottage, or I go over to F. where we have a place in the country by the sea and just spend a lo t of time. And I always, again, 214 have th i s trememdous sense, as soon as I manage to shuffle off a l l the d a i l y anxie t ies and preoccupations, t h i s tremendous sense of, "oh, there 's God again." God just enter in through everything. Everything around me becomes so beaut i ful and so r e a l . God i s so present then in every l i t t l e experience, in every l i t t l e thing I'm doing and seeing and hearing. K: And when you say, "There's God again," what i s that for you, outside of you or inside of you? G: Both. Again you just get r i d of th i s outs ide- ins ide th ing . I think God i s always in me. But a great deal of the time I'm c los ing off that awareness by being very -preoccupied, or t i r e d . Fatigue w i l l do i t . If my senses are used and my energy i s gone. I don't any longer have those disturbed feel ings of "Where i s God?" and doubts. I just say to myself, "You're t i r e d . You just need to go away, or you just need a good n igh t ' s s leep." K: What happens to your sense of yourself as far as your esteem or your self-image when you have these exper iences? G: I have a lo t of self-esteem. So, you know, there w i l l be times . . . i t tends to go very far down i s when I'm t i r e d , I guess. My sense of se l f i s gone. K: So your sense of se l f being wiped out i s the same as your sense of God or other. You become subject-object again? G: Right . And I become aware of my body as an object which hurts and the leg muscles don't function too w e l l , and the eyes being too t i r e d and no energy. Then that turns me into an object for myself. K: Would you summarize what you've learned from your experiences about the subject-object, the r a t iona l understanding that you came to years l a t e r . G: W e l l , I think we are not separate from God or separate from each other, or separate from crea t ion , that we are members of one another, we are members of the t o t a l i t y of what i s . We sense our i d e n t i f i c a t i o n and our energy i s high and we're happy in the sense that r e a l i t y i s expanding and the t o t a l i t y i s good and wonderful and our p o t e n t i a l i t i e s are great and we're fee l ing pos i t ive about everything and everybody. That 's on i t s most elementary l e v e l . And when we're phys ica l ly t i r e d and mentally 215 depressed and i t ' s a l l c los ing in and we don't feel good about ourselves or good about God or about anything around us . . . there are re la t ionships between that . I can open myself and close myself off to that , but there are object ive factors too. I think the r e a l i t i e s of a contract ing economy and a discouraged people and a world very anxious about whether i t ' s going to survive or not also affects me. I'm affected by that part of the t o t a l i t y too. And I suspect God i s affected by i t too. God as our source of energy and being, also has some kind of . . . i s not always the same e i the r . The extent to which one can be open to t h i s t o t a l i t y i s the extent to which one can ob l i t e ra t e the ba r r i e r s . That, I th ink, usual ly happens in a spec i f i c way. You don't usual ly say, "Oh, there 's t o t a l i t y . " I t happens with a spec i f i c person or object . I think i t very often happens in making love . When two people have made love, r e a l l y love, i t ' s sort of a p h y s i c a l , s p i r i t u a l , mental, emotional experience. I t ' s a t o t a l experience. Then the bar r ie r s come down, and God i s t e r r i b l y present to them. And I 've often experienced that , almost overwhelmingly . . . overwhelmingly. And I suppose i t ' s l i k e being . . . when you're experiencing any one thing that leads us to th i s breaking down of subject-object . The same as love . You t o t a l l y give yourself to that , s p i r i t u a l l y , mentally, every other way. I t ' s l i k e making love. I t ' s more then the phys ica l s a t i s f a c t i o n . There i s no more him or me, but we have become each other and we have become something bigger than that a l so . We become i d e n t i c a l to everything that i s . The "isness" i s what's c h a r a c t e r i s t i c . If we can enter into " isness ," i f we can enter into the act of being anyone or anything, we have entered into that, and that into us, a mutual exchange of being. K: And tha t ' s happened for you at times when . . . G: Once i t happened and h i t me t o t a l l y by surpr i se . I wasn't depressed or upset or anything. I was going in a plane qui te a long time ago from V. to L . and they used to f l y much closer to the North Pole than they do now. And we l e f t here in June, during the sunset. The sky was a l l red and orange and gorgeous and beau t i fu l . Since we were f l y i n g through the sunset a l l the way, I d idn ' t go to s leep. I kept watching i t . I t was so beau t i fu l . I just sat there and watched i t . And again I.'m confined. There's no place I can go. Everybody else in the whole plane was asleep. And i t must have been about three or four in the morning and the sunset i s less red now and more purple and pink and v i o l e t , but s t i l l very 2 1 6 beau t i fu l . And a l l of a sudden . . . I ' d seen down there a l l these white . . . I don't know whether they're icebergs or g lac ie r s or what, but something to do with that A r c t i c region, and that the colours ref lec ted l i k e that . And I see also a huge red object and I look at that and I th ing , "What i s that?" I t ' s just a f i e ry b a l l . And then i t h i t me. It was the sum r i s i n g in the middle of the sunset. Well I just . . . wel l my breath was just . . . you know . . . I wanted to wake everybody up and jump up and down and dance i t was so beaut i ful to see the sun coming up in the sunset. And the beauty of i t was a l so , as I contemplated the imposs ib i l i t y of t h i s happening, was that the only thing tha t ' s impossible i s our notion that the sun does set . It doesn' t . The sun i s always there and we're always thinking i t ' s se t t ing and r i s i n g and our whole point of view i s crazy. And i t just t o t a l l y reversed my whole . . . and ever since then I tend to think, "The sun hasn't gone down. I t ' s there. I t ' s just the people in Japan are seeing i t now," and I have a whole di f ferent sense of the world. The sun never goes down. And I need to know that . I t gives me a very good sense of my own unimportance, t r ans i to r ines s . You know, that the sun i s c i r c l i n g , or not . . . the sun i s n ' t c i r c l i n g , we are c i r c l i n g around on th i s earth, and from our point of view a l l of these things seem to be happening but they 're r e a l l y not. Which I f ind very funny. I t makes me very happy. And i t was very beau t i fu l , just fantast ic to see. So that quite took me by surpr i se . K: Did you have the sense of your t rans i to r iness in the other experiences thast you had, the two you t o l d me about? G: No, no. K: I t was a oneness with what i s , here and now? G: Yes. 217 Transcript (Case H) H: It happened about in the spring of 1981, as much as I can . . . I ' m t e r r i b l e at chronology. I was going on a camping t r i p . It was maybe 2 or 3 months after I ' d s p l i t up from a marriage. It was not a long marriage, as marriages go, two and a half years. I t was in the spr ing. I ' d taken half a dozen weekend camping t r i p s before that . This i s important because i t was a big decis ion to take a camping t r i p on my own and there were at times in my marriage . . . and the s p l i t of my marriage because an on-going issue for me had been never having or taking the kind of time and space to myself that I f e l t that I needed. I ' d done a lo t of camping as a k id and some as a teenager but always with my family and groups and I ' d never gone camping by myself. I was up in T. Park near B . , a very large, almost completely wilderness park, and I ' d heard that there was a S. club lodge there. So I was kind of playing i t safe. I ' d arranged to have . . . I don't remember now i f i t was a week or two weeks, but that chunk of time, where you could have a cabin, e i ther stay in th i s 10-person lodge or a cabin in the middle of a wilderness park. I have in the back of my head that maybe I ' d go backpacking but i t was going to be a big enough experience for me to have a week alone in a cabin in the woods. And yet I wouldn't be a hundred per cent i so la ted because the S. club lodge which had a nature kind of focus. I t ' s l i k e the sort of thing that a l l my friends b a s i c a l l y would understand and support me and sympathize wi th , but my family would think I was looney-tune for . I d idn ' t even t e l l them I was thinking of going backpacking alone. I d idn ' t t e l l them I was staying in a cabin . I t o l d them I was staying in the lodge with 10 people. You bus up there to W. and then over the C. country. There's l o t s of legs of the journey and you go deeper in and then you bus over the C. I t ' s a very long d i r t road. I was thinking of going backpacking on my own, but I was real scattered about i t . I d idn ' t bring backpacking equipment and i t was just l i k e . . . wel l i f i t ' s meant to be I ' l l f igure out how . . . I ' l l borrow from people up there, or I ' l l buy . . . l i k e . . . out of fear too, not r e a l l y wanting to commit myself. If I organized myself to r e a l l y get everything together for backpacking, I ' d feel very committed to doing i t . So I went and stayed in my cabin by myself for 4 or 5 days. 1 kind of los t track of time. I t might have been 3 or 6. I ' d brought my f lu te recorder and my paints and books and I r e a l l y d idn ' t do any of that s tu f f . For days I d idn ' t even go on a day h ike . I sat on my porch and looked at the birds from my porch and you know, put a 218 lo t of time into cooking up my r i c e , things l i k e that . Then I s tar ted gradually going on . . . i t took me several days before I even went out on any day walks and then day hikes which were wonderful and magical in themselves, some of the experiences I had, some of the wi ld l i f e I saw alone, in the woods. They were powerful in themselves. Kind of informal ly , w e l l , something happened. The second day I was there, there was another s ingle woman up in the region, and she heard I was there. She wanted to go backpacking and she came and found me and asked i f I wanted to go with her. I went through a big dec i s ion . I t was l i k e you know, i f I don't go with her, what's the l i k e l i h o o d of another s ingle woman coming up to me to go backpacking together in the next space of time. If I say no to her and I s t i l l want to go, that means I'm going to have to go on my own. And I thought about i t and just d idn ' t fee l just r ight about going with her. Informally . . . in retrospect , you know, seeing i t that way . . . I spent a week doing the research, c o l l e c t i n g research to prepare myself to go backpacking. I wasn't consciously preparing. But the end resul t of several days . . . i t was almost systematic the way I was doing i t . It was l i k e everybody that I d id come "across . . . the people who ran the lodge . . . i t was just kind of casual . The scary thing about i t was that i t ' s g r i z z l y bear country, and i t ' s ear ly spr ing . I was going to be the f i r s t person on the t r a i l , except for the s ingle woman, who as i t turns out came back ea r ly . She d idn ' t get hal f way up the mountain even and something happened to . . . there was a log across . . . so she got discouraged very ea r ly , so she came back. So I was going to be the f i r s t person up the t r a i l . I t ' s g r i z z l y bear country. G r i z z l i e s do . . . are more dangerous e tc . e tc . K: You decided la te r on in the week you would go on your own and you just sort of accumulated things throughout the week? H: Well i t wasn't consciously . We l l , i t wasn't l i k e . . . I'm going to go. I ' d better f ind out what i t ' s going to take. I t was l i k e I was playing with the p o s s i b i l i t y . K: And a l l of a sudden you found yourself prepared to go? H: Ya. Well i t wasn't a l l of a sudden. It was l i k e I was working at preparing in an unconscious way. It was l i k e I ' d ask people, i f I were to go which were the t r a i l s to go on. But you know mentally I'm evaluating i t but always leaving the option to not go. I f I were to go, what's your advice about dealing with g r i z z l i e s ? 219 That was the main research . . . asking everyone about g r i z z l i e s . I h i t ch hiked into B. a couple of times for supplies and to see the town. The people I ' d meet, they'd say, what are you doing and I ' d say wel l I'm staying in t h i s cabin and I'm thinking of going backpacking. Everyone . . . i t s tar ted, l i k e i t was u n s o l i c i t e d . They gave me the i r g r i z z l y bear s tory . Everyone has a g r i z z l y bear s tory. Everyone's been mauled or molested by a g r i z z l y bear or the i r brother has. So everyone's got one. And they're a l l l i k e . . . . i t happened in the back yard, i t happened on a f i sh ing t r i p . Everyone has got d i f ferent advice about how you avoid them, or how you deal with them, and i t ' s c o n f l i c t i n g advice. Somewhere in that period of time I guess, I switched from playing with i t to pret ty much deciding to go. I don't remember when th i s change occurred. I had to decide who's opinion to take. I gave weight to the man who worked in the lodge there. I gave his more weight. He had a d i f ferent view from almost everyone e l s e . I n s t i n c t i v e l y i t made more sense to me. Most people's view was you make as much noise as you possibly could . You might r ing a b e l l , or h i t a can while you're walking to keep . . . to l e t them know you're coming, so you a le r t them and stuff l i k e that . There were other things l i k e , we l l i f you do meet them, which kinds of trees do you climb and how high up do you have to go to be safe from them because they can c l imb. And to run downhill instead of u p h i l l and why you do that , and di f ferent things l i k e that . So ac tua l ly I learned a lo t from the man who . . . there was a couple l i v i n g in th i s lodge. They l i v e d there year round and in the summer they'd take groups h i k i n g . He majored in psychology, in animal behaviour, majoring in the g r i z z l y bear. How's that for spec i a l i za t i ons ! I mean those were impressive c reden t i a l s . His view made more sense to me i n s t i n c t i v e l y , and also his whole manner. He was unassuming, whereas other people were, you know, oh, you've got to do i t th i s way, and he just sort of said h is peace. His thing was . . . the basic thing was . . . and th i s was important to the whole experience. It was . . . i t ' s the i r . . . tha t ' s the i r domain. You're the guest. You're the v i s i t o r and you make yourself as unobtrusive as poss ib le . You don't make noise, and in fact you walk as qu ie t ly as poss ib le . I mean, I maybe took i t further than . . . I don't know i f he said those s p e c i f i c s , but he said b a s i c a l l y make yourself as unobtrusive as poss ib le , so you don't threaten them, or s t a r t l e them or whatever. That 's part of hanging your bag of food up and s tuff , not just so they don't smell the scent, but so that you're not even smelling up the i r 220 area. I read books. I mean I'm not much of a reader ac tua l l y , but I skim books and there was one book about the way Indians walk. When we were l i t t l e kids we used to play Indians and s tu f f . Wel l , I learned what was behind that and I maybe put i t together in my own mind. But you know how we used to . . . wel l I don't know i f you d i d , but you know how Indians . . . you know, walk s ingle f i l e l i k e Indians, and stuff l i k e that . Also there 's a cer ta in amount of regalness or something. This i s what the books said . . . i t showed the footpr in ts , instead of one foot in front of the other . . . you know we normally walk l i k e t h i s . . . there 's two sets of foo tpr in t s . They're side by s ide . Well the book was t a lk ing about how i t was l i k e t h i s . Where one foot i s in front of the other, which i s what we do when we're on t i p - t o e . Well you t ry doing that not for 4 minutes but for hours on end. You have to be phys ica l ly balanced and centered to do i t . So I would walk around and pract ise i t . Well not only that , you're doing i t t ry ing to be as unobtrusive as poss ib le . Because you know, you hear about how animals can hear, and bears don't have good v i s i o n . They have good ears and they hear from the ground, so you r e a l l y want to be quie t , because you don't want to scare those g r i z z l i e s because you're h ik ing along in the woods. And you don't climb trees . . . you've never climbed a tree in your l i f e . When I l e f t to go on the backpack t r i p I t o l d the people who ran the lodge. You know you t e l l someone, l i k e i f you don't show up in three days send up the Red Cross or whatever. I wanted the freedom to . . . maybe I ' d get up to the lake and I ' d love i t and I ' d be going swimming and I ' d want to stay there longer. I d idn ' t want to s t a r t l e people. I took a r i sk and t o l d them give me s ix days before you s tar t looking for me . . . or whatever, an extra amount of time. So you've got h ik ing boots on, heavy h ik ing boots, and a backpack, l i k e a 60 or 70 pound backpack t ry ing to walk qu ie t ly l i k e an Indian in moccasins. I was very successful at i t . I mean the whole thing was a rea l meditation for me. Also you don't want to walk super, super slow because i t ' s going to take forever. So you just get into i t . You get your body . . . and i t ' s very centered to walk l i k e that . I t ' s l i k e walking on a t ightrope. And with the weight. So there was a phys i ca l , in a sense you could say, a phys ica l meditat ion. I d idn ' t use that word or think of i t in that way and that wasn't the purpose of i t , but that was part of what happened. Then what I would do when I got scared, l i k e I ' d be walking along and every once in a while fear would just f l a re up inside me. I would . . . wel l there were two things I was doing. One i s I had a 221 book of psalms a fr iend of mine had given me . . . a l i t t l e t iny one and I kept i t r ight in my pocket a l l the time. I would take i t out whenever I wanted to . I d idn ' t question myself about i t . . . l i k e th i s i s stupid to be scared or something l i k e that . I would l e t i t f a l l open at random and i t was always . . . I 've always been that way about i t . Wherever i t f a l l s open, i t ' s sort of l i k e an orac le , tha t ' s what I need to read r ight then. There would always be some very powerful message in whatever was coming. So I had my l i t t l e book of psalms with the pret ty cover and I ' d open i t up when I was h i k i n g , and whenever fear would r i se in me I would take i t out and read i t and put i t back i n . Usually i t just helped me to center for a minute. I t ' s in Hebrew and Engl ish and I ' d t ry to read the Hebrew too, which i s a very ancient language and very beaut i ful to look a t , and has a lo t of meaning to i t , the language i t s e l f . The other thing that I d id . . . t h i s thing I had planned, that whenever I got scared . . . no, no, no . . . I just decided that to keep me from being scared I was going to meditate on the Hebrew l e t t e r s . The l e t t e r s in themselves have a lo t of . . . i t ' s d i f ferent than in Eng l i sh . Each l e t t e r of the Hebrew alphabet has s to r i es upon s tor ies of meaning just for the l e t t e r s themselves. So I would v i s u a l i z e the l e t t e r s and just say them and just keep going through them, the Hebrew alphabet. I d idn ' t s tar t that meditat ion. The f i r s t day of the hike was f a i r l y easy. I'm not up in the mountain yet where the bears are. So I'm not into a l l t h i s yet . K: The f i r s t day you concentrated on walking and keeping your phys ica l se l f centered? H: Right . Using the f i r s t day to pract ise the walking. But the f i r s t n igh t ' s experience was also one of deal ing with the fear because I was at the base of the mountain and on th i s beau t i fu l , beaut i ful lake . The moon i s sh in ing . I t ' s a f u l l moon and i t ' s s i l v e r y on the lake, and there 's b i rd c a l l s c a l l i n g out. Here I am, you know, pret ty much i so la ted in the woods, on my own, my f i r s t n ight . Scared. Now what am I going to do? I t ' s a beaut i fu l n ight . I t would be a wonderful thing to have a campfire and s i t and look at the moon a l l night , but I'm not used to doing a l l that s tuff by myself. I went to bed r ight after I ' d eaten dinner. I had a tent . I don't know what time i t was. And I decided . . . the f i r s t few minutes . . . you know, everytime there was a crack of twigs or something, I ' d jus t , you know, freeze and tense up and get scared. Because i t ' s at the edge of the woods, i t could have been anything. I decided then, i t ' s 222 l i k e , you know, applied psychology here and I 've used i t l o t s with c l i e n t s . I t ' s just a hypnotic suggestion but I used i t on myself without th inking of i t in those terms. I said I can ' t afford t h i s . I have to be rested for tomorrow. I t was l i k e I . . . there was never . . . once I d id i t I was going to do i t , the h ike . I ' l l never sleep i f I l e t myself get scared l i k e t h i s . You have to take a f a t a l i s t a t t i t ude . If you're going to go in the woods in g r i z z l y bear country on your own you're e i ther going to do i t and survive whatever happens to you or you're not. So I said next time I hear a crack of a twig or a crackle . . . everytime I hear something, instead of get t ing tense I'm going to use i t as a cue to go into a deeper state of r e l axa t ion . I think I heard 5 crackles and was deeply asleep. So having had such a r i c h success with mastering fear that night then I s tar ted the next day's hike which was up the mountain. You had to s tar t early because i t was very steep, so you want to do the steep part before the sun gets h igh. So then I'm into the h ike . I 've had the one night out. I 've mastered that l i t t l e b i t of fear. I 've had my prac t ice at walking Indian s i l e n t l y . But i t ' s the whole thing . . .. l i k e you're also . . . some people might th ink, going off and having an experience l i k e that i s sort of stimulus redcuction. Going camping in the woods alone . . . you know, i t ' s away from socie ty , away from people, away from sound. But i t ' s almost the reverse because, you know, I have a heightened body awareness because of r e a l l y being very conscious about my movements and my meditat ion, my walk as a meditat ion. Also being v i s u a l l y very a l e r t because you're constantly scanning around you . . . I was, as part of my t r a in ing for th i s . . . for signs of animal movement. The other thing that you're always doing, or I was as part of my t r a i n i n g , i s a lso always scanning the t rees, because the kind of tree that . . . that was part of the ins t ruc t ions , to always have one eye out for a possible escape route i f you come up to a bear. There aren ' t many of the r ight kind of trees to climb around there, so you're always looking . Well i f I d id come up to a bear what would I do? Urn . . . I wasn't laughing about i t then. I was very focused and in tent . So always scanning v i s u a l l y and staying focused that way and tha t ' s when I . . . and I would take out my book of psalms and read i t whenever I needed to . That 's when I was meditating on the Hebrew l e t t e r s . I t was . . . I . couldn ' t t e l l you the time span, i f I was doing that for a half an hour, for 40 minutes, for two and a half hours. I don't remember. But I think even at the time, I must have been h ik ing for at least a couple of hours in that space, and i t was in the middle of that , that . . . oh, 223 and sometimes I would s ing , mostly Hebrew songs, but never out loud. Even though I love to s ing , in the shower type th ing, I d idn ' t ever consciously decide I'm not going to sing out loud, but i t just f i t with the whole meditative th ing . You don't want to draw at tent ion to yoursel f , have the animals come out of c u r i o s i t y . So I would just occas ional ly sing a song in my head. And somewhere during that period I heard music and i t was . . . l i k e . . . I can ' t remember the f i r s t instant of i t . You know, I remember the ful lness of i t . I don't remember now i f I gradually became aware of i t or i f i t was a l l of a sudden. The most v i v i d part that I do remember i s the moment where I recognized the largeness of what I was experiencing. K: You say the largeness. Can you t e l l me more about that? H: W e l l , I mean, because i t was l i k e I heard music and at some point I think I turned. I t sounded l i k e i t was . coming from over there and I turned around, and l i k e that can ' t be. I t ' s l i k e , you know, i t ' s h i l l s and forest and you know, i t ' s the kind of v i s t a where you can see the di f ferent h i l l s folding into each other and stuff l i k e that . And i t ' s l i k e . . . oh, you're hearing things, out of fear or something. K: Did you feel a f ra id of i t when you rea l i zed i t ? H: No. Uh,uh. I don't think these kind of thoughts went through my mind at the time. I t was just t ry ing to assess what was going on. But the one thing I do remember I did was to . . . I d id some kind of check . . . body scan or something. I t seemed l i k e i t was coming from outside of myself, l i k e from the h i l l s . So I checked, you know that cavi ty in your head, when you have a song buzzing around in your head. I sort of did a mental check to go into that c a v i t y . No i t wasn't coming from in me. And I got the confirmation and i t was l i k e . . . then the l o g i c a l thought . . . i t can ' t possibly be coming from you. You don't know th i s music. It was l i k e c l a s s i c a l music and stuff l i k e that . I mean . . . I . . . I don't l i s t e n to much c l a s s i c a l music. I don't play an instrument. You know . . . things l i k e . . . I mean i t wasn't l i k e a folk song, or Appalatian Blues or something l i k e that . And a l l that , the doubting and the body checking was just very b r i e f , you know, wi thin mi l l i seconds probably. I just f e l t . . . I mean i t was . . . I was already aware before i t happened, at how at one I was f ee l ing , although I d idn ' t use those words. I t was 224 l i k e that was r e a l l y what I was doing. To conquer my fear of the bears and to be unobtrusive meant becoming as much in harmony with my environment as I could . I r ea l i zed . . . these were not conscious thoughts . . . i t was a l l . . . I understood i n t u i t i v e l y , i n s t i n c t i v e l y , immediately that . . . that the music was coming from nature, that the music was coming from the h i l l s . And I heard di f ferent music. There was . . . l i k e from the va l l ey where the h i l l s were folding into each other, once I turned around and paid a t tent ion to i t and looked out. It was l i k e . . . there was c l a s s i c a l music and there would be di f ferent s t ra ins of i t , d i f ferent pieces and then I heard jazz and I heard even rock and r o l l , and I thought . . . and I kind of laughed to myself . . . i t was l i k e . . o h yes everybody thinks of angelic music as the harps and everything, w e l l , rock and r o l l i s there too. I mean, i t was l i k e . . . mostly i t was c l a s s i c a l , what we c a l l c l a s s i c a l music .and then there was some j azz . But there was one s t r a in of . . . I mean they were in sequence, they weren't a l l at the same time. K: Were you turning around? H: No. I was looking out, away from . . . you know, you're h ik ing and the mountains are on one side . . . so looking out . . . i t ' s not just a v a l l e y . There are l o t s of h i l l s . I sort of understood . . . I never evaluated i t t h i s way . . . but I understood that the di f ferent musics were coming from di f ferent places. Maybe that piece was coming from that h i l l and that piece was coming from that h i l l or that fold in the h i l l and i t was that i n t u i t i v e . I mean, these words of i n t u i t i v e , you're not th inking in that kind of l o g i c a l way. K: Do you remember what your body was fee l ing l i k e ? Were you just r e a l l y surprised or shocked? H: I don't have a memory of being shocked in that negative sense or tense or anything. I t was l i k e awed. You see I was in a very peaceful state . . . through . . . you know as part of the meditation and everything. I think awed would be the best word . . . awed and you know, what you might think of as honored, although I d idn ' t think of words then. I t was just l i k e . . . blessed . . . l i k e I ' d been . . . I mean . . . I knew i t was a very specia l experience. That 's putt ing i t m i l d l y . I knew as I was hearing i t , l i k e th i s i s the music of the universe. A l l that s tuf f , l i k e things you know in your head, or that I do, or believe so, or a t t i tudes , or things you've heard or read, or s tuff that poetry i s made 225 of, was that I was experiencing that . That a l l of creat ion i s a l i v e , in more . . . because i t wasn't jus t , you know, th i s was the t rees . It was everything. I t was coming from the earth i t s e l f . You could c a l l i t the v ibra t ions of the earth or something. So when musicians often ta lk about . . . In times since I 've often heard di f ferent musicians say or they're quoted in newspapers as saying that often the songs they write they don't feel l i k e i t ' s coming from them. Some of them say i t very honestly and humbly. I t ' s just coming through them. I understand that , they 're tuned i n , I mean because of having experienced that . Some part of them i s tuned in to whatever channel . . . that music ex i s t s in the universe, as i t emanates from crea t ion , or from things, or from the l i f e of creat ion and they are channels for i t . At least tha t ' s how I understand i t . And that stuff i s n ' t esoter ic poetry to me because of having experienced that . You could generalize that to other kinds of . . . any creat ive channell ing be i t an a r t i s t , pa inter , or a therapist who's a powerful healer, or a healer who heals phys ica l ly through hands on. That concept of people being channels for a l i f e force or a crea t ive energy or whatever. That 's one of the ways in which i t changed me, i s that something that had been a concept, or an idea, was a l i v e d t ru th for me. If I never have another experience l i k e that , auditory or v i s u a l , or of that profundity, I ' l l never doubt having had that experience. I t was so t o t a l . K: Can you say more about " to ta l"? H: I don't know. I t was just l i k e . . . I mean I'm a very heady person, very i n t e l l e c t u a l and a l l that s tuf f , besides having a creat ive streak. So i t would be very easy to . . . whatever doubt I had about i s t h i s r e a l l y happening in the way that i t seems to be happening, you know, I must be making th i s up. And I can go to a l l my psychological theories about defence mechanisms and bla bla bla bla b l a , and sensory deprivat ion creates th i s and bla bla b l a . But I d id some kind of a body scan, or checked i t , and recognized i t wasn't coming from within my inner cav i t y , in my ear drums or whatever, and believed my inner . . . you know, I believed i t . I d idn ' t doubt my experience. I don't know what I can say about the totalness of i t . Just that i t was very r e a l . I t wasn't . . . i t d idn ' t feel l i k e I was imagining i t . It d idn ' t feel l i k e I was dreaming i t . It d i dn ' t feel l i k e a waking h a l l u c i n a t i o n . K: So a l l of you was r ight there? 226 H: Ya. I mean I was c l e a r l y . . . I was hearing i t the way I could hear a b i r d . Oh another thing that I thought i t was that . . . another check that I d i d , the skeptic in me. I remember th i s now, as I was saying, I d idn ' t . . . I could hear i t the way I could hear a b i r d , or a brook going by. I thought to myself . . . you know the way . . . something l i k e a babbling brook can have a ce r ta in musica l i ty and you know, a lack of conversation with people, or something. Maybe I'm twis t ing the gurg l ing , burgling of the r i ve r down below, into organized sound form. And I rejected or vetoed that p o s s i b i l i t y because the musical s t ra ins were complex and complete, pieces in the sense of western music as we know i t . When I was hearing s t ra ins of music that I d id not recognize, I d idn ' t remember, I mean, I don't l i s t e n to c l a s s i c a l rad io . I used to l i s t e n to c l a s s i c a l music as a k id when my parents had i t on on Sunday dinner . And I might have stored i t and stuff l i k e that . But i t was too v i v i d for me to doubt. K: So what happened once you had accepted that t h i s was r e a l l y happening? H: After a time i t faded. I t d idn ' t take me long to accept i t . A l l that doubting and checking was in a matter of moments and I don't know i f they were- seconds or minutes. I don't know i f the experience lasted seconds or minutes. I don't . . . and I d idn ' t know then. I was too into i t to evaluate i t . And after a while i t just . . . the sound died down. K: And you were t o t a l l y unaware of anything but the sense of awe and the sense of being blessed? H: I don't even know i f during i t I was th inking about that awe, or being blessed. I think I was just too into i t , l i k e l i s t e n i n g to i t , f i r s t doubting i t and checking i t out and then accepting i t and l i s t e n i n g to i t . I t would be amazement or something, l i k e the di f ferent music coming from dif ferent places . I t ' s l i k e there 's probably that sense of being blessed or whatever. I mean those are almost l i k e judgements. Like I have been pr ivy to a very spec ia l experience. There's the fee l ing that you want to mark the event in some way. I ought to . . . and I don't remember at t h i s point what I d i d . I wouldn't . . . I mean I can remember that f ee l i ng . I don't know i f I . . . I don't know. I don't know. I'm sure I d id something. But I don't remember. If I said a b less ing . I mean that might have been what I would have done at that po in t . Or i t might have been just a rea l s i l e n t 227 th ing . But I was on a sloping h i l l s i d e between nowhere and nowhere. I mean I couldn ' t stay there. And I had to go on, I couldn ' t just stay there and meditate on the spot because you had to get through th i s steep part of the h i l l before the sun got too high. So . . . K: It faded? H: Ya. K: And you continued? H: Ya. I mean, having . . . i t wasn't l i k e . . . I continued l i f e - a s normal, which in t h i s case was very unnormal, you know, completed the h ik ing t r i p . This was just a couple of hours into i t . K: Did you have any thoughts as you started up again . . . s tar ted walking? H: This i s several years ago, and I don't . . . I ' m sure that I d i d , but I don't remember what they were. What I'm t e l l i n g you i s what has stayed with me. Whereas the actual experience . . . I no longer remember the pa r t i cu l a r s t ra ins of music even. But I have sort of a v i s u a l , phys ica l sense. I t ' s l i k e I know that the jazz came from that par t . I can see i t in my mind's eye, t h i s spread, t h i s v i s t a . The jazz came from that area and the rock came from that area, so maybe i t shif ted as i t got further away . . . and the di f ferent s t ra ins of c l a s s i c a l . But i t was l i k e . . . w e l l , I guess the thoughts are some of the things I 've been t e l l i n g you. Because I know as i t ' s happening, I would have been too amazed to think a l l these things. I t was l i k e , now I know what's meant by, "And a l l the earth s h a l l sing God's p ra i ses , " or a l l those kinds of things, a l l those kinds of things that I had been reading in the psalms. K: Had you come across those types of phrases in the psalms on the way up? H: I don't remember. I haven't looked at my book of psalms in a long time. I don't think . . . the psalms are more heavy duty l i k e , black, you know. There aren ' t a l o t of r e a l l y beaut i f ic phrases in the psalms l i k e that . But there i s some of that stuff I might have . . . w e ' l l just see. I ' l l look for an example. Well here you go. The page I opened to i s about singing and playing on instruments and the maiden playing on t r imba l l s in assemblies, God i s blessed and da da da da. "Kingdoms of 228 the earth sing unto God. Sing praises unto the Lord . " K: When you were walking up the h i l l before t h i s happened, the type of meditat ing, the type of thoughts that you were having, d id have to do with God and s p i r i t u a l things? H: Uh huh, uh huh. And I was meditating on the Hebrew alphabet which i s a very s p i r i t u a l . . . K: I'm not fami l ia r with that , so I'm wondering what types of things the Hebrew alphabet symbolizes? H: We l l , I ' l l t e l l you one th ing . We l l , sure t h i s s tuff was an influence in that sense, but one of the sh i f t s . . . i t ' s a sh i f t in understanding or awareness. I'm sure that before that I never had that imagery. I never understood, be i t in the psalms or in poetry or whatever, that my . . . i t would have been understood as even, more metaphorical, but even here, where there i s ta lk about singing or music, i t ' s usual ly l i k e d i f ferent instruments are named, that kind of th ing . But any expression of . . . I don't know i f that i s in the psalms, but . . . any expression of . . . . I probably more would have understood i t l i k e the way the babbling brook had i t s own song and every person, the way we l i v e our l i v e s , in a cer ta in sense i s a song. But I wouldn't have understood i t so l i t e r a l l y that you ac tua l ly emanate a ce r t a in v ib ra t ion which in i t s e l f i s a piece of music. I f I had that ear, that l e v e l of consciousness, or that dimension of consciousness a l l the time I could hear the song that emanates from you, or that you generate. K: And that was your understanding after? H: Ya. That music comes from . . . t ha t ' s l i t e r a l l y the orchestrat ion of the universe. That there 's the rock s i t t i n g on the mountain side and the grass and the tree and the h i l l and the way the h i l l s fo ld together and the way the sky meets the h i l l and a l l that s tu f f . Each thing has i t s own note, and together i t makes an orchestra . K: And that included you? H: Uh huh. K: Because you were t a lk ing about i t inc luding me. H: Oh ya. That . . . I mean I d idn ' t . . . I don't know. 229 You see an experience l i k e that . . . I mean th i s w i l l be an in te res t ing thing that w i l l come up in your study and how recently the experiences are that people have had. I would say i f anything i t s impact or meaning .has deepened. In some ways the emotionali ty of i t i s l e s s . I couldn ' t t e l l t h i s without crying before, as recently as 2 years ago when I t o l d i t to L . And there 's something about . . . a c tua l ly as I was s i t t i n g here thinking about you coming, I was s t a r t ing to fee l tear fu l as I thought about i t . So there i s that thing of, you know, I'm being conscious of, you know, my mind i s working t ry ing to reach back the d e t a i l s . But i t s t i l l does move me. I don't remember, maybe I c r i ed then. I don't remember. Another thing I could do before you come back for another in terview. I had . . . I kept a . . . I shouldn't say I kept a j ou rna l . I d idn ' t keep a da i ly journal at a l l but I always have a journal on hand i f I want to write s tu f f . And I had i t on that t r i p with me. I t ' s very possible that I d i d n ' t write down a thing about i t because I wouldn't know what to say. Because to say i t in t h i s exact . . . in a sense s c i e n t i f i c way . . . there 's a value in that . . . I ' m not objecting to that at a l l . I t ' s just I wanted to communicate . . . what I wanted to commumicate to people afterwards about i t was what I understood why or what happened . . . how i t i s I became a channel in a sense or tuned in to the universe at that l e v e l , was more than just the backpacking on my own or just being alone. It was the conquering of fear. That 's l i k e a very archetypal kind of fear. Here i s . . . forget i t , i t ' s not even man against the bear. This i s woman versus the bear. And for whatever reasons I p i t myself in that s i t ua t i on , and you know, my research about i t was . . . unconscious, I mean ul t imate ly . . . and I kept saying how conscious these thoughts were at that time, but t h i s i s why I say that par t ly i t ' s deepened and enriched because other things come into i t over the years. I t ' s not l i k e I once had an in te res t ing dream. You know other threads . . . l i k e when I said I understand now what musicians are t a lk ing about and any a r t i s t s or creat ive people are t a lk ing about when they experience themselves as channels. Or when I'm doing counsel l ing or therapeutic work with someone and I know that I have a deeper sense, not just an i n t e l l e c t u a l b e l i e f , but a deeper . . . my r e a l i t y comes from a deeper l i v e d experience of what the p o s s i b i l i t i e s are for people, that they also can be channels, that fears can be mastered . . . a l l that kind of stuff or that underneath or behind our fears and our suffering and our single-mindedness i s a universe that i s quite magical and beaut i fu l and that tha t ' s ava i l ab le to us. I don't think 230 you have to be out in the woods to have that experience or have to be meditat ing. But for me what i t i s about . . . how I think i t happened, and th i s might have been <• what I was thinking about was because I ' d just spent several hours in focused phys i ca l , v i s u a l , meditation a l l with the purpose of mastering fear, of overcoming, or coming to terms wi th , because you can' t just mask the fear. I t ' s not l i k e you can squash i t down. So i t ' s l i k e I suppose what would happen . . . you see I would read the psalm and i t would ac tua l ly . . . when I would read the psalm I would ac tua l ly feel more peaceful for a moment, or for a while u n t i l I needed one again. I t would be l i k e during the moments of reading the psalm I would l e t go of a l i t t l e piece of fear. That 's r i g h t . You know I'm not alone here in the universe. K: There was a struggle against the sense of alone and p i t t ed against the whole wide world, and then you'd l e t go of a l i t t l e of that and you'd feel more . . . H: Ya. It was r e a l l y . . . wel l the fear against the whole wide world was r e a l l y embodied in the bear, which u l t imate ly i s death. Because what's the fear of? The fear i s of . . . I'm sure that was somewhat conscious, the thing of death. Because in the days before th inking about i t , I mean what was I r e a l l y a f ra id of? I f a bear attacks you, you get mauled and bla bla b l a . And what i t ' s a l l about or what i t a l l represents i s death, or the p o s s i b i l i t y of death. There's also, the p o s s i b i l i t y of being mangled and l i v i n g through i t . Except i f you were mangled, depending on how badly and you were out there, alone, the chances are you're going to die because you're not going to get back down. You can a t t i t u d i n a l l y or i n t e l l e c t u a l l y have a f a t a l i s t i c a t t i tude which i s what I had to do to go into i t . I ' l l e i ther make i t or I won't . But having decided that , I hadn't t o t a l l y dealt with the fear. If I d idn ' t deal with the fear, I would have been stopped. I wouldn't have been able to keep progressing, l i t e r a l l y to keep going on th i s path. I t ' s the kind of fear that can paralyze you. But I never even got to the point of fee l ing para lys i s because every time I f e l t that wave of fear I would read a psalm, or move i t through me. K: You moved along. You dealt with each fear as i t came up, and you became calmer? H: I'm not cer ta in about t h i s , but I had a fee l ing that I d idn ' t have any fear after that . My memory of . . . now looking back on that t r i p , I have a p ic ture of myself taking my book of psalms out and that kind of th ing . I 231 can see myself on cer ta in slopes on the mountain doing that . And once I was past that point . . . K: You don't remember reading i t ? H: I think that I d i d n ' t . I think that that was . . . I mean I know once I was up there . . . I know for a fact that once I was at the top of the mountain, and I ' d say that t h i s was maybe half way up . . . once I was at the top and then once I was at the lake, I was s t i l l in bear country. I had to put my food up and that kind of th ing , but I d idn ' t . . . I wasn't l i v i n g in that place of fear. There were other su rv iva l issues l i k e I was freezing to death. But just when I think back on my memory of the t r i p , i t ' s l i k e I see a l l the preparation for .the t r i p , that night at the lake . I see myself how.I got into the meditative walk and I remember using my psalm book, and then I have that experience. The next leg of the t r i p i s somewhat of a blank to me. I don't have any spec i f i c memory of i t . I might have just been processing the whole thing or th inking about i t . K: Was i t l i k e you were an observer or an audience to t h i s orchest ra l music, or that you were part of i t a l l ? H: Well I was an audience in the sense that I was hearing i t and i t was coming from over there. I t was l i k e even though I heard i t coming from over there, I understood in that moment when I was understanding whatever I was understanding, that that music comes from everything. And the other part , besides my meditative state was, i t was l i k e that was a good amphitheatre. The acoustics were good there. It was a combination. So i t was c l e a r l y not coming from the side of the mountain I was on or from my physical being in that sense, but I d idn ' t fee l l i k e a voyeur, l i k e . . . l i k e I'm sneaking a peek at something I haven't a r ight to or something l i k e that . That 's probably that sense of being awed or the fee l ing of having been blessed was that , the fact that I was allowed that opportunity in my l i f e , or that I created that opportunity, however you see i t . I t was, you know, a g i f t . I wasn't in an e g o t i s t i c a l frame of mind or something that said th i s was a g i f t just for me alone sort of th ing . The mountains are singing to H! I d idn ' t think of i t l i k e that . I t was just l i k e . . . I guess maybe witness would be ac tua l ly bet ter . Because i t ' s . . . wel l tha t ' s l i k e i t being an audience but I was just witness to something that i s a r e a l i t y . K: For a moment you were part of something . . . 232 H: That 's always there. K: That 's always there, but we're not aware of? H: That 's what I f e l t l i k e . That 's what I be l ieved. I bel ieve that i t just tuned in and tuned out. K: That i t ' s always there and for a moment you were there with i t ? H: That 's r i g h t . That 's r i g h t . And . . . I can t e l l you other th ings . I mean the rest of the t r i p had other . . . you know, the h ik ing t r i p , there were other experiences that were part of that h ik ing t r i p . That was c l e a r l y . . . that was the . . . you know, l i k e I came back . . . I ' l l t e l l you two dif ferent experiences that come to mind. I don't know which . . . then at the lake there were a l l kinds of su rv iva l issues . I ' d gotten rea l c h i l l e d on the mountain top with sweat and everything and had a hard time warming up. I t was quite co ld and rainy and I spent several days just dealing with the cold and ra in and s tuf f . When I went to leave the mountain top and I went out and looked at the lake and I ' d spent . . . a l l those days I ' d had my recorder with me and I hadn't played i t because I d idn ' t want to draw a t ten t ion . I f e l t l i k e I ought to , you know, to leave my mark too in some way. I went to the water 's edge and I played just a couple notes on my recorder and I stopped because i t d idn ' t feel r i g h t . I t f e l t too i n t ru s ive . But a couple of birds came down, came swooping down. I just . . . i t was one of those things where I r e a l l y f e l t l i k e they were coming to acknowledge me. K: So you r e a l l y experienced being part of the natural se t t ing and the existence of that music? H: The most profound moment was that moment without a doubt. I was d e f i n i t e l y part of i t when you're r e a l l y up there in the cold and wet dealing with the elements. K: And also t ry ing to be as unobtrusive as you can and t ry ing to f i t in as wel l as you can. H: Yes. And that was the core of i t . That was . . . i f I thought about anything . . . that was my role or my way of being there, what the whole hike was about. And, tha t ' s what I s a id , doing that l i t t l e research on the bears or how to deal with bears . . . tha t ' s why i t was an important part of the s tory . Because the man's advice who I took was the guy who reminded me that I'm a v i s i t o r o 233 there. I t ' s the bears' t e r r i t o r y . L i t e r a l l y the bear and metaphorical ly, i t ' s a wi ld kingdom and I'm a c i v i l i z e d , quote c i v i l i z e d , human and the woods i s not my home anymore. In that sense I'm a guest. They have a real c lear balance worked out and I could disrupt that and being very conscious not to , or as l i t t l e as poss ib le . And that was a rea l big focus for me. I took i t s e r ious ly . So I understood i t at many l e v e l s , in terms of way of walking, not making voca l i za t ions , and everything. When I l e f t the whole area, when I l e f t B. I flew back to V. in one of those l i t t l e t iny planes. I saw as we f l y further and further south where the logging s tar t s and more logging and more logging and i t wasn't . . . again th i s was . . . 1 , 1 can ' t say i t ' s because of "that" experience. I t ' s the whole time I had up there in the woods and everything, but that was the most profound part of i t , where my sense of connection to the earth and nature was very profound. So when I was f l y i n g back down, I remember being very, very deeply pained by . . . i t was.very hard for me to understand too in my head, seeing- the logging. I r e a l l y saw i t . I f e l t i t , k i n e s t h e t i c a l l y , bod i ly . I r e a l l y f e l t i t as a sca r r ing . I t looked l i k e scarr ing and I f e l t i t and I 've never been b i g , involved in the ecology movement or anything l i k e that . I'm aware of i t . My family, we were camping ever since I was young, but I 've never been l i k e an a c t i v i s t in the ecology movement. When people would ta lk about the rape of the earth and that sort of s tuff i t never r e a l l y rang for me. It was just dramatic language of the a c t i v i s t to catch people's a t t en t ion . But I r e a l l y f e l t i t . I t f e l t l i k e a physica l scarr ing and I was pained by i t personally and I found myself r e a l l y sobbing. That 's another sh i f t that occurred, or another consequence i s a deepened respect for the ear th . I can ' t even say i t ' s . . . I wouldn't say i t hasn't to do with that experience, not just with having gone camping and appreciated. . . . because I 've camped a l l my l i f e . I 've always loved nature and a l l that s tu f f . But you know, i t ' s sort of l i k e a maturing experience . . . having been marked by that here, more profoundly seeing the unity of c rea t ion , or of experiencing i t . So the f l i p side of that, being more profoundly affected by the abuse of the phys ica l planet and I believe that as we s i t here in our l i v i n g rooms in the c i t y that that phys ica l scarr ing of our planet in a l l forms, whether i t be logging or p o l l u t i o n or the concrete world that we've b u i l t and a l l that stuff i s a part of the pain and brokeness of our own s p i r i t and souls . And I would trace that d i r e c t l y to that experience and other subsequent experiences along those same l i n e s that r e a l l y just reinforced i t . Where i t ' s 234 not just the i n t e l l e c t u a l idea l to me. And tha t ' s a r ad i ca l s h i f t . I 've been in the healing business a l l of my l i f e . My working l i f e has been 12 years or something. I grew up in a household of therapis ts and healers , both my parents and the people around them. One of the sh i f t s tha t ' s occurred, which ac tua l ly also deepens and grows over time rather than lessens i s . . . I used to think i t ' s no good s i t t i n g here as a counsellor or a s o c i a l worker saying things l i k e or be l iev ing or being focused on . . . l i k e t h i s world i s no good and i t ' s r e a l l y fucked up, you know. I t ' s a l l in the i nd iv idua l way you handle i t and you know . . . your perceptions and that sort of thing because tha t ' s a l l we have to work with e tc . We l l , I guess the sh i f t i s that at one l e v e l you're working with your i nd iv idua l s e l f , your perception and the way you handle i t , and a l l that stuff i s s t i l l a focus for me, whether I'm doing therapy or not, because I do a lo t of other work these days besides therapy. But tha t ' s . . . my or ien ta t ion in the world i s as a therapist regardless of the work I'm doing. You know in personal re la t ionships and that kind of th ing . But recognizing that the pain and suffering in people 's hearts and souls and minds and beings i s deeper and more profound than the i r personal experience of the i r famil ies and the things that have happened to them in the i r l i v e s . But of us and part of our shared humanity in that sense, i s our shared loss of the connection with the earth and . . . and those not just being words to me . . . but having experienced that , and that contrast from having heard the music of the earth and then seeing the scarr ing up there. I have to admit i t was r e a l l y very powerful. So tha t ' s one th ing . And the other th ing , when I said to you on the phone that sometimes the most profound experience or changes or whatever don't show some apparent outward change or something l i k e that . My father picked me up at the bus s t a t ion , or I saw him the next week, I don't remember. He would be the person in my world who would be the most r i d i c u l i n g of the whole th ing . He d idn ' t say anything beforehand. He said something . . . "So d id you have, ' . . . l i k e , sort of r e a l i z i n g the fantasies I had had about going off into the woods to f ind myself. Which there was nothing overt or c l e a r , i t ' s just that I wanted the experience of having time to myself alone. He sa id , "So, d id you discover any great" . . . no . . . "Has i t changed your l i f e in some profound way to have had that time in the woods alone?" And saying i t in a t o t a l l y mocking way. Well that would be the las t person in the world I ' d t e l l the t ru th to , that I would expect to understand, that I would want to know, to bare myself in that way. I mean i t ' s a d i f ferent way of l i v i n g and 235 th ink ing . And of course the very f i r s t thing I thought of was that experience. L i k e , "Yes. Yes. Yes ." And I said no. And i t was l i k e . . . I mean in a sense..I mean tha t ' s part of the whole thing too . . . just part of my growing or deepening as a person . . . knowing that, you know, you can . . . I doubt that that was the f i r s t experience l i k e that . . . but just yet another experience . . . w e l l , I ' l l t e l l you what i t i s , which I d idn ' t think of at that time. His a t t i tude i s r e f l e c t i v e of our society and our cu l tu re , and t y p i f i e s that loss of connection from the earth, to be so frightened himself of the p o s s i b i l i t y of being deeply affected and changed by time alone in the woods. If i t d idn ' t push some button for him, he wouldn't have to mock i t in that way. That was the f i r s t person I saw that clued me in to being careful who I shared i t wi th . I don't remember. I t o l d my massage therapis t , who I ' d been going to for several years and I just knew would understand somehow. He sa id , and I d idn ' t understand what he said at the time, he said that . . . he's 15 years older than me or something . . . someone that I would consider to be somewhat of a shaman in that his healing capacity goes beyond any pa r t i cu l a r technique, that has to do with the person he i s , and that he i s a channel. And he sa id , wel l . . . you know, I was fee l ing a l l sad and remorseful about how i t was such an ephemeral experience, and l i k e . . . big deal I had that . When's i t ever going to happen again? Something l i k e that . . . along those l i n e s . He said something l i k e , " I t ' l l serve you for a long, long, long t ime." And i t was l i k e over the years so far , in between, i t ' s l i k e r e a l i z i n g you don't need to have a lo t of those experiences . . . as far as serving . . . as far as deepening me as a person. I do dip into that experience as I would dip into a wel l or something . . . often. I don't need to recreate the whole story in my mind's eye to do i t . I just remind myself of the one pic ture I have . . . just of looking out over the va l l ey and having the music come to me. At times of, I can ' t even say when i t comes to me, but often. It might be several times a week. I couldn ' t say what kind of times. K: When you're afraid? H: I don't know. I think i t ' s when I need a reminder of that side of l i f e . Sometimes i t w i l l pop up spontaneously. K: When you get a l l caught up in the society part that your Dad typ i f i e s? 236 H: Uh huh. Uh huh. Or when I'm working with people or when I 'm'saying words l i k e , you know, t a lk ing about our connectedness to the earth, or our connectedness or da da da da. I f lash to that and i t ' s r e a l . My words are not just words. When I think about . . . or when I ta lk to people, friends or myself or c l i e n t s about nature and putt ing themselves in nature, l i k e phys i ca l ly in nature as a very human experience, l i k e , "Get thee down to K. beach," i s as v a l i d and profound, wel l maybe more so, than get t ing your husband in here for a second session. That kind of s tu f f . I have other experiences in my reper toire of profound l i f e experiences that I draw from and tha t ' s ce r t a in ly one of them and one that comes up a l o t . Or when other people share things with me, or hint at things that are . . . "You wouldn't bel ieve what happened to me." That 's one of the experiences in my l i f e where I'm open to be l iev ing the unbelievable. That changes how you are with people, what you're open to . But the biggest, seeing that r e la t ionsh ip between fear and how you deal with fear, and sort of coming through to the other side of fear. That fear being an overlay on our perceptions, or an opaque gel or something . . . then going through i t to the other s ide . Which i s an image I use constantly in work with people, "the image of going through fear. I t r i e d wr i t ing a story about i t . There's a section of the service in Judaism, the High Holiday Service . . . I can ' t remember where we f i t i t in . . . but i t came out . . . I d idn ' t know which part of the story to t e l l or what the point was. I t came out l i k e a poem more than a narrat ive and the core of i t was about facing fear and going through fear and being more present to the g i f t s of the universe as a r e s u l t . K: What do you do with your fear now? H: I probably do the whole range of things that everybody does. Sometimes I ignore i t and push i t away and i t grows. Probably more than many people, that a t t i tude of going through, of meeting a fear. Even that in i t s e l f i s what got me up to the woods. Before even the hike and the g r i z z l y bears and a l l that , wanting or fee l ing the need for time alone with myself, and never doing that , and maybe blaming my husband for that or , even though he did make i t d i f f i c u l t and a l l that , not just i n s i s t i n g , "I want t h i s , " or "I must have t h i s , " out of my own fear of that . So even just going up there at a l l to the cabin, was in i t s e l f a process of going into the thing I am a f ra id of. Which I often do. K: Have you developed a better way to handle fear? 237 H: I don't know about a better way. I mean I don't know i f I had such a bad way before. I don't know about t h i s . That was a pretty good way. K: Are you less a f ra id of fear? H: Less a f ra id of fear . . . tha t ' s an in te res t ing quest ion. Less a f ra id of fear. I don't know. These are a l i t t l e abstract for me at the moment. I have a l l these understandings of fear. I see i t as an overlay. There's a deeper t ru th . Wherever there i s fear, there i s a deeper t ru th . When fear seems a l l consuming and a l l of that , there i s even a deeper t ru th and that does guide me through a lo t of th ings . I s t i l l get stuck in my fear l o t s of times. I don't know. I can ' t say i f my present understanding of fear has to do with that experience alone. I think probably I had that in my or ien ta t ion somewhat to s tar t with as i t was.. That 's part of the get t ing up there to the forest in the f i r s t place. I'm a person who goes after the thing that they fear, often, not always. But c e r t a in ly that experience has contributed to that a t t i t ude . I mean again, the t ru th for me that there i s something deeper underneath fear, there 's a deeper t ru th underneath there, always. Cer ta in ly that experience stands as one of the very basic stones or whatever. I speak those words as one of my truths from my own experience, and not from an abstract i n t e l l e c t u a l idea that under fear i s love and da da da. And again, I mean, i t ' s always in which an experience l i k e that ends up deepening and richening and growing over time. I do a kind of therapy now c a l l e d reb i r th ing in which you're ac tua l ly evoking, or g iv ing room for a l o t of your fear to surface. When people come with a l l t h i s s tuff about, "What's going to happen?" and da da da, I mean a l o t of the pain and suffering some people go through comes down to some fears, some be l i e f that whatever they see as the r e a l i t y i s the only r e a l i t y . Then i f tha t ' s the way i t i s then they're in a real bind. But th i s i s a l l get t ing head stuff and I d idn ' t have these thoughts at the time. I mean my own work as a therapist hadn't evolved to the extent that i t has now or in the same way i t has now. But c e r t a in ly that experience i s one that goes into my being able to speak from a place of a l i v e d out t ru th , rather than an idea, or a concept, and that makes a di f ference. K: You came closer to an i n t e l l e c t u a l understanding of i t after? H: Ya, whereas maybe before ideas l i k e that rang true for 238 me, or they made sense, but th i s was . . . you sort of have an i n k l i n g . . . you even think that you know what you're t a lk ing about. And i t ' s to the point that I bel ieve that there 's probably even something deeper than what I experienced there. If I know that I 've cracked open a l e v e l in my own perceptions of what's rea l and what's poss ib le , I'm just as sure that there 's some other l e v e l that I haven't even seen yet. K: You said something before that, I was curious about. Did you go through a time of fee l ing kind of depressed? You said you went to your massage therapist and you t o l d him about i t and you were what? Sad because you thought th i s w i l l never happen again? H: Ya. I d idn ' t stay with that a long time. That 's one of my ways of fucking myself up. I t ' s l i k e maybe I ' l l buy some flowers down at the corner store and the same moment I am enjoying them I ' l l go, "Why don't I do t h i s more often?" A lo t of people do that . And he just sa id , "No." L i k e , "Look." There's something funny. Here's t h i s deep personal experience, and I wrote that poem and the Rabbi at the service where I d id i t , the Rabbi just loved i t . He was asking me to do i t d i f ferent years. I never even kept a copy of i t for myself. I have journals and journals and books and books f u l l of stuff that I write and here's th i s thing of th i s profound experience and I d idn ' t even keep a copy of the poem. Every year he says, "You know you r e a l l y ought to have a copy for yourse l f . " Because i t ' s a very moving thing and because i t came from such a deep place. And every year I say I r e a l l y ought to and I don't get a copy of i t . I probably w i l l some time, but i t ' s l i k e . . . I mean tha t ' s kind of an in te res t ing th ing . I wrote i t up on a big sheet of paper the f i r s t time, l i k e a piece of a r t , but i t ' s almost l i k e , I don't need that poem to remember the experience. Another in te res t ing thing when I wrote i t down, or what some of the essence of i t was for me. Two years l a te r he asked me to read i t again and I hadn't seen i t even and i t was the day of the service , the once a year High Holiday Service . He just c a l l e d me up to read. He has i t in his book of accumulated l i t u r g y and on the spot I changed the wording of some of i t . Like the way the meaning of an experience can even change over time. I think . . . I don't remember s p e c i f i c a l l y , but I made i t . . . I think what I d id was make i t more present tense. I t ' s almost l i k e going the f u l l cycle now of understanding i t metaphorically again. That was a f lesh and blood, k ines the t ic , audi tory, v i s u a l experience but the profoundness of i t i s that i t applies to everything 239 in l i f e . The going into the forest , and the metaphorical understanding of entering the forest , the facing of the bears, the facing of your fears, whatever they are and a l l that s tu f f . 240 Transcript (Case S) S: I 've been t ry ing to r e c a l l t h i s and I remember very c l e a r l y that for two weeks before I had the experience I was going through a real down time and I couldn ' t r e a l l y understand what was happening to me. I ' d never been through anything before exact ly l i k e that and I was fee l ing more and more down and i t wasn't l i k e a depression. It wasn't l i k e despair . K: Was i t l i k e you were sinking? S: S inking , l i k e r e a l l y s inking down. I was t ry ing to keep working on my thesis and having a d i f f i c u l t time because I was wr i t ing off the top of my head and i t just wasn't working. I found I wasn't able to work and I had to stop. I was t ry ing to f i n i s h by the spr ing . I wanted to graduate in the spr ing . I just thought, "No way," because I was pushing r e a l l y hard to do that . I t was l a s t A p r i l . I remember i t was around . . . close to Passover time. I'm Jewish and I ' d not been keeping the r e l i g i o n . I was brought up Orthodox Jewish. I went away from that and I don't have a t r a d i t i o n a l r e l i g i o n but I guess that time of year things come back to you. I t was also a year before that that my father d ied . So i t was an anniversary. Dad's death was in A p r i l and at that time I d idn ' t go home. K: When he died? S: I d idn ' t go home to h is funeral . I was doing my practicum at the u n i v e r s i t y . I had just been a week into my practicum and I got the word there. I just got back from lunch and I was t o l d . The message was given to me and he was being buried the next day. K: Where d id he die? S: This was in F. I could have made i t , but I just thought there 's no point in going home. I wouldn't be seeing my father. I t would just be being with a bunch of r e l a t i ve s and hearing a l o t of t a lk and I just d idn ' t want that . And so I d idn ' t go back. And . . . so that was part of i t . I think maybe that was part of i t but i t wasn't the whole th ing . The other thing that was happening was the person I loved, I had heard around that time that he was going to leave V. We had been married a long time. We had been separated several years but there was s t i l l that sense that we were important to each other. We had been seeing each other. We weren't 241 get t ing anywhere in th i s r e la t ionsh ip but he was important to me. So when I heard he was going to be leaving I had a lo t of feel ings of sadness. So that was another th ing . The other thing was that in terms of the work with the thes is , something happened around that . I had loved my research. I t was a wonderful experience, t a lk ing to people, going back for the second interviews. It was just wonderful. And the wr i t ing of i t was very e x c i t i n g . I was very very much caught up with i t . I could work for hours and hours and hours. I could work a l l n ight . I t was that kind of trememdous excitement that I f e l t . And . . . I los t that , I los t that sense of connection. The thesis was almost done in a way, l i k e I had f in ished chapter three, four, and f i v e . I had drafted chapter two. I had a lo t wr i t t en . I d idn ' t fee l i t was s o l i d . I f e l t I had to s o l i d i f y i t . I had just given chapter one to P. and he had sent i t back with . . . that I had to change the s t y l e . There were too many " I ' s . " I thought, "Oh boy, you're wr i t ing off the top of your head," which I was. I ' d also f e l t I ' d made changes in my f i f t h chapter that I found r e a l l y hard to make. I had come up with a whole l o t of impl icat ions for counsel l ing which were r e a l l y important. I f e l t they were important. I was rea l gung ho about what I wanted to do with the resul ts in counsel l ing and he sa id , "Cut i t out. A l l t h i s i s i r r e l e v a n t . " So I cut i t out and I rewrote the chapter. It was l i k e an acceptance of h i s authori ty without r e a l l y understanding i t and i t was h u r t f u l . I found i t very h u r t f u l . I couldn ' t ta lk with him about i t . I f e l t I can ' t ta lk with him about the way that I f e e l . I f e l t I just couldn ' t communicate with him. So there I had a i l these feel ings that I was t ry ing to keep down and just keep going. And I came to a point where I just could not do anything. And so, what I found myself doing i s just withdrawing. It wasn't a planned th ing . I just withdrew from everything and everybody. I unplugged my phone. I . . . I just d idn ' t want to t a lk with anyone. I wanted s i l ence . I knew I just wanted to get away from pressures and hassles and a whole lo t of ta lk and i t seemed to me that there was a whole lo t of babble going around. I just d idn ' t know who I was or where I was going anymore. And so I guess I spent a couple of . . . I guess i t must have been three weeks just being alone and my friends were worried about me. I was get t ing l i t t l e notes outside my door because when I unplug the phone I don't hear the door outside e i the r . People were s t i c k i n g notes on the outside door of the apartment b u i l d i n g . So I got to my friends and I t o l d them I was okay and I just wanted to be alone by myself. I found that I wasn't able to work. I d id things l i k e 242 walking. I did a whole lo t of walking. I walked in the park. I just went into book stores and I just browsed around. I had that rea l heavy feel ing l i k e I had a feel ing of loss of energy and a rea l kind of heaviness, weighted down. K: Was i t a physical heaviness as wel l as emotional? S: Oh yes. Oh yes, very much so, very intense. And I remember the walking par t . I was doing things l i k e sewing which I hardly ever do, l i k e I never do. I made a c lo th racoon. I t was just something that I d i d . I paid at tent ion to dreams. This was something I do anyway. I was paying pa r t i cu la r a t tent ion to dreams and I think that what I was hoping for was some kind of dream that would give me a sense of d i r e c t i o n . And I d id get a dream l i k e that . On Easter Sunday I had a dream and I r eca l l ed i t and that was about a week before t h i s other experience that I'm going to ta lk about. The dream that I had was an image of a set of. keys on a r i n g . One of the keys i s in the lock of a door. The door i s c losed . The set of keys are sh in ing , i l lumina ted . I hear words, "Part of the process." Before I saw the keys and heard the words there was a struggle going on but I can ' t remember. I d id a drawing of i t . I t was the shining of l i g h t which r e a l l y struck me. I just d idn ' t know what to make of i t , about the locked door and the key and whether I was inside the door or whether I was outside the door. I just d idn ' t know. But i t seemed as though there was some ind ica t ion of hope or something in the feel ing with that l i g h t . So I did t h i s drawing and I put i t up on the cabinet which i s r ight across from my bed where I could look at i t . K: So b a s i c a l l y you l i v e d with i t ? S: Yes. I t r i e d to . . . I guess, fee l my way through that and t r i e d to understand what i t meant. I remember going into . . . being . . . you know I couldn ' t afford any of these books on dream symbols, but looking up keys and stuff and t ry ing to figure out . . . I t seemed to me that i t had to do with s p i r i t and I was being given the keys to heaven, things l i k e that . But I just r e a l l y d idn ' t know what to do with that . In the week after that , l i k e the week between having that dream and the other, I found myself p ick ing books off the she l f . Yhings sort of came off the shelf for me. The night before I had that experience I was reading a mythology. I t ' s d i f ferent goddess myths. I t ' s a book I love and I was reading i t for about the second or t h i r d time. I 243 think I was reading things that were kind of comforting and had a personal f ee l i ng . This one i s about death and r e b i r t h . I was longing. I had a real sense of longing for a connection. I wanted a connection because I was fee l ing so cut off and a l iena ted . K: A connection with? S: With . . . i t was "good," I think. That 's the word, tha t ' s what I would use. And I just d idn ' t have i t . I f e l t r e a l l y al ienated from everything and everybody. R: So i t wasn't a connection that you wanted through other people? S: No, no. I f e l t I had to be alone. I had to be s p i r i t and I had to get away from external things. At a ce r ta in point I r ea l i zed what I was doing. It was more i n s t i n c t i v e . When I look back at the journa l , I was incubating, kind of incubating and waiting for what I thought was the turning poin t , something l i k e that , some kind of message, some kind of d i r e c t i o n . I was just wai t ing . I read something in T .S . E l l i o t and i t was these l ines in p a r t i c u l a r : "Suffer me not to be separated And l e t my cry come unto thee." I put th i s up on my f i l i n g cabinet . I wanted something so badly. And i t had to do with a l l these th ings . I t had to do with my father. I t had to do with L ' s c a l l i n g . I t had to do with my work. I t had to do with . . . with just a sense of . . . whatever, a reconnection with something. I d id c ry . I remember doing a whole lo t of cry ing at th i s time. And i t ' s not something that I do e a s i l y . I just don't tend to c ry . And i t was probably important that I do i t because when I was t ry ing to work I remember feel ing t h i s pain in my eyes. K: What kind of crying was i t ? S: I think i t was sadness. I t was sadness. And I think i t was probably hea l ing . But . . . i t was just a lo t of tears . I'm wondering . . . I ' m probably missing a whole l o t . (consults journal) Ya . . . A p r i l 24. Yes. I drew my dream Easter Sunday. That seemed to help me. Oh ,yes . . . "Last night I awoke. I heard something f a l l . I turned on the l i g h t . The l i t t l e mouse holding the pic ture to my f i l i n g cabinet had fa l l en down and the pic ture was flapping as though the door was opening. There did not seem to be a wind coming, l i k e from outside . . . I s t i l l feel that I don't want to t a lk to anyone 244 from school or about school . What do I want? A connection with s p i r i t . That 's what I want. Nothing else r e a l l y matters." When I had the experience i t was about . . . i t was on . . . ear ly Sunday morning a week l a t e r , after the dream. K: You spent that week in the same type of i s o l a t i o n as before? S: Yes. I saw . . . the only people that I saw, at that time, was my dream group. I went there once. But that was not in that week. It was the week before that . And I was seeing th i s fr iend of mine, who was an old lady who l i v e s in th i s part of town. She's a very spec ia l f r i end . But I don't think i t was during that week. I don't remember seeing people. Would you l i k e me to read th i s? K: I think I ' d l i k e you to t e l l me about i t . S: Can I just leave t h i s on my lap? K: Sure. S: Okay. I remember I woke up. I was awakened in the middle of the night . I t was 3:45. There was a noise outside. And I was t ry ing to remember a dream. I couldn ' t remember i t . I wasn't sure i f I d r i f t ed back to sleep or not. Then I f e l t . . . what I f e l t was a presence. I f e l t a presence in the room. And i t was l i k e a sense of power. And as soon as I f e l t i t , I had that sense of knowing what i t was, because I had been wait ing for something to happen. And i t was in my mind. My mind became focused on . . . i t was a sense of presence. I f e l t i t in my body. When I s tar t to t e l l you about i t now, I s tar t . . . I ' m r e l i v i n g i t . I fee l very moved by the whole th ing . K: What do you feel in your body? S: A quickened heart beat. My heart speeded up so much that I was a f ra id I was going to d i e . I t was that kind of t h ing . K: Were your eyes s t i l l closed? S: No. My breath slowed down. I had at that point . . . I thought I could get up. I could c a l l someone. I could break t h i s . L i k e , you know, I don't have to stay here and have th i s happen. I was scared. I thought, "I'm r e a l l y scared." Because that power was so overwhelming. 245 And I thought, "I don't want t o , " you know. I don't want to stop t h i s . K: So you made a conscious decis ion to go with what was going on? S: Yes. To stay and to experience t h i s . What I said was, "Help me not to be a f r a i d . " K: Did you say i t out loud? S: Yes. Wel l , qu ie t , I guess. But I said i t . And I was trembling. It was at that point that I saw a l i g h t . I f e l t i t f i r s t in my body. I f e l t the power and presence f i r s t , and then I saw the l i g h t . The l i g h t was coming from a point in the c e i l i n g and r ad ia t ing . It was rad ia t ing down and spreading around. I t was . . . I was fol lowing i t , and as I was fol lowing the l i g h t I could feel the power and I could feel changes in my body. I t was l i k e moment to moment changes that were taking place in my body. I t was warmth. I could feel a sense of warmth in my arms and legs . I t was l i k e my blood, moving through my body. I t was a wonderful . . . i t was a peaceful f ee l ing . I t was very peaceful. I had a sense that t h i s was God. I 've never experienced anything l i k e that in my whole l i f e . It was just i nc red ib le , just i n c r e d i b l e . ' I guess that I wanted answers so much that . . . you know, I just wanted to dialogue. I wanted to t a l k . I had a sense that t h i s i s . . . that whatever t h i s i s , i t ' s what I was looking for . I t ' s what I was wait ing for and I would l i k e to just know d i r ec t i ons . What I got . . . K: Did you ask questions? S: Yes. I asked questions. K: In your mind? Out loud? S: I t was in my mind I th ink. I don't think that I spoke them out loud. I think that I formed them. I remember, what I got was th i s trememdous sense of a f f i rmat ion . I t was just an incred ib le fee l ing of being blessed. It was just going r ight through me, r ight through my whole mind, through my body, being blessed and affirmed, and loved. I 've just never had that before. It was just l i k e an outpouring. What I f e l t was . . . i t was outside me. I could see the l i g h t outside me. I could feel that presence outside me. I could feel something going on inside me. So i t was as though that power was inside me 246 and outside me at the same time. Like I was ins ide , l i k e I was within i t , l i k e I was just enfolded in i t . I t was wonderful. And i t was love, you know. It was an outpouring of love. I t was so strong. I t was so strong that I got scared again. It was so powerful that I went through the fear thing several times. K: So would you feel a f ra id and then feel the love again and then feel a f ra id and then the love? S: Yes. Yes. I could hear my teeth chat te r ing , my palms were sweating. I could feel my body trembling. It was . . . you could say an anxiety at tack. I mean tha t ' s the way i t was. And I kept saying I'm a f r a i d . Help me not to be a f r a i d . And the fear went. I t was just i nc red ib l e . I t was just an incred ib le experience. I'm just fee l ing i t . When I'm t a lk ing about i t , I'm fee l ing i t now. I'm just fee l ing my heart pounding. (s i lence) K: Can you t e l l me what you're fee l ing r ight now? S: I'm not even sure. (s i lence) K: Don't feel rushed. Take the time you need S. S: Ya. I 've been r e a l l y . . . again suf fer ing , going through a time of separation, so i t ' s good to t a l k . What I was fee l ing was th i s pounding in my heart . . . s i m i l a r . . . . K: Fear, also? S: No, no. I t was just coming back. This crying . . . I d id a lo t of crying in . . . I was t a lk ing to the l i g h t and the tears just poured out of me. They just poured out. And i t wasn't sadness. I f e l t t h i s love . And I said I'm so happy and I c r i e d . I c r i ed and I said I'm happy and I c r i e d . That 's the way i t went. I f e l t a pain in the r ight side of my chest, under my r ight arm. I f e l t that several times and th i s i s where I ' d had the surgery for breast cancer, my mastectomy. And I f e l t that several times in the course of th i s dialogue, or whatever. I f e l t that t h i s was part of some kind of message, that th i s was dealing with my work. The message that I f e l t that I. was get t ing . . . I f e l t that I was get t ing the message that I was going the r ight way in my l i f e . That the work that I was doing was important, that i t was sacred, that staying with that was the way for me to go. And t h a t ' s r e a l l y what I needed. I needed to know that . Part of i t was that the people I loved were 247 going to be taken care of. And they were two people in p a r t i c u l a r . One was L, my husband, and the other was V, th i s o ld woman. I asked about those two. But the sense of the r ight d i r ec t ion was the main message I got. K: And how did you get that message? S: It came in a t o t a l way. I t was l i k e . . . i t came through th i s outpouring of love and aff i rmation that I f e l t . That 's the way i t was. I would ask i t and I would get i t and would have that sense of peace. I t was l i k e almost a physica l kind of sensation I would get. But i t was l i k e a knowing that came from th i s t o t a l . . . the way that I f e l t . K: So you somehow, within your body, knew? S: Yes. I'm wondering i f I'm saying i t . I d id bel ieve t h i s . That I knew I would get the strength to f i n i s h my work because i t was . . . you know, i t sounds arrogant. Like I can ' t ta lk about th i s to people. I can ' t ta lk about th i s to anyone, because they 'd think I was crazy and I was arrogant. I could say th i s to you. And the sense that I got was that t h i s was sacred work and that I would get the strength to f i n i s h and that t h i s was what I had to do. I t was l i k e a task that I was c a l l e d on to do. And I had that , a kind of an i n t u i t i o n about that . I ' d had a sense that th i s i s important to do but I hadn't had i t affirmed. What I needed was th i s kind of rea l c lear aff i rmation of what I had been doing, that I d idn ' t need to be a f ra id of anything. I d idn ' t have to be a f ra id of anything because here was a power that was so overwhelming and i t was love . This was the only thing that was to be feared, that power and I was being helped not to be a f ra id of i t . What I was fee l ing was love and I had th i s sense that I d idn ' t need to be a f r a i d . K: Do you have any idea how long th i s lasted? S: Yes. I know exact ly how long. That 's the strange th ing . I t f e l t l i k e i t was going on for a long time. At a cer ta in point I thought i t ' s okay to get up. I needed to go to the bathroom. I r e a l l y needed to go. I d idn ' t want to break th i s connection but at a ce r ta in point I thought I can get up. When I got up I f e l t the presence was s t i l l there. I f e l t i t was in the apartment. When I walked from the bedroom out to the bathroom I had that sense of densi ty, l i k e there was a real density I was walking through. 248 K: A phys ica l density? S: Ya. I could fee l i t . There was a denseness. I t was hard to walk. It was hard to walk. When I turned on the l i g h t in the bathroom my watch said 5:30. I t was 3:45 when I turned on . . . I think before . . . I looked at my watch when I f i r s t woke up. I t was 3:45. This was 5:30 and I went back to bed and I slept for a couple of hours. That day I found out, l i k e la te r that day, that the time was supposed to change and I had not changed my clock that night . I had not put i t forward an hour and so i t was l i k e a time out of time almost. That r e a l l y freaked me out . . . that we were supposed to lose an hour during the night because of the time change at the end of A p r i l , and here I had spoken with s p i r i t or dialogued with s p i r i t for over an hour. I t was l i k e a time out of time. I t seemed very symbolic to me, that i t was another kind of time. K: Did you have a sense of not wanting to break the connection when you went to the bathroom? S: Ya. I waited for a time when i t seemed okay. I remember l y i n g there for a while and there 's a time where I f e l t i t ' s okay now. I 've received the message, or whatever, and i t ' s okay for me to go. K: So there came a point where you knew what you needed to know, where you had what you needed? S: Uh huh. I had three other experiences after that , not nearly so powerful, but s i m i l a r . Two of them were within the next week or two, short ly after t h i s . They were s i m i l a r . I could fee l that coming on and I would go and l i e down and I could see the l i g h t and I would fee l the presence again. I t wasn't l i k e a whole lo t of dialoguing or anything a l s e . I t was l i k e an experiencing of presence. K: How d id you feel i t come on? S: I t was l i k e a sense of excitement. I think I somehow . . . I don't think that I . . . I was working on a dream. I was s i t t i n g here at the table working on a dream. It was a dream I ' d had in 1976. I ' d had a dream about a rainbow. m The night before I ' d had another dream about a rainbow and I just could feel the connection. They were two dreams, eight years apart and the f i r s t one had meant a l o t to me and I ' d done a drawing and wri t ten a poem. I t was to me a dream that had to do with s p i r i t . 249 And I ' d had another rainbow dream and I was working on that . I went back and reread the journal in which I ' d recorded the f i r s t dream. I t was just l i k e a sense again of feel ing presence. I could feel th i s coming, feel i t coming. I l a i d down and i t was l i k e another encounter with l i g h t only i t was much gent ler . It wasn't as powerful. I t was a gentler kind of connection. This was f a i r l y close in time. K: So the fear wasn't there th i s time? S: No. I d idn ' t have the fear. The las t time was in J u l y . This was r e a l l y surpr i s ing when th i s came. I just d id not expect i t at a l l . What was going on at that time . . . i t was the las t time, about two and a half months after t h i s . I was having problems with the word processing and i t was l i k e a draggy, draggy th ing . They were making so many mistakes and i t was cost ing so much money. I had spent a whole lo t of time proof reading and I had to take i t back to the word processor the next day. There weren't any buses running and i t was a rea l crummy time. At midnight I turned out the l i g h t and there i t was. There i t was, you know, Ju ly 16. I guess i t would have been the night of the f i f t een th . There i t was and i t was a demand. What I f e l t at that time was not just the blessing par t . I t was l i k e a demand. Something was d i f f e ren t . I remember c los ing my eyes and t ry ing to get back to sleep and I cou ldn ' t . That l i g h t was there and i t was demanding my a t t en t ion . I had to look at i t . I had to focus, to concentrate f u l l y on i t , a l l of me, as long as that l i g h t was there. I t was l i k e more commitment, more work being demanded of me. At t h i s time, the l i g h t was very, very beau t i fu l . I could see, l i k e petals of flowers, golden l i g h t . The f i r s t time i t came i t was more l i k e white, more a kind of whi t i sh radiance. I t was golden and very, very beau t i fu l . I f e l t myself get t ing pul led back. I d r i f t ed off and I ' d get pul led back again and again. My ears f e l t strange, l i k e I was in an a i rp lane . You know when you're in an a i rp lane , you're r i s i n g and descending. I had that funny strange feel ing in my ears. I t was again, quite an incredib le experience. I t was a demand. It was t h i s power, warmth, beauty, the radiance, the love, but i t was a demand for commitment. And that was the l as t message that I got. This i s what I wrote. When I read i t now I c ry . "God w i l l give me the strength to do His work. I ' l l suffer , I w i l l also experience glory as I already have done. God w i l l accept no half measures. He demands f u l l commitment." That 's the way I f e l t . Now i t ' s overwhelming me because there 's just so much tha t ' s 250 happened. I 've come to the point with the doctoral program I ' l l have to leave i t . I 've been there for a year and I 've come to a decis ion that I ' l l have to leave i t because I'm not able to be the way I need to be there. I t ' s just not the r ight way for me to go and I had interpreted that too narrowly. I had interpreted that . . . oh, t h i s was another thing I d idn ' t mention to you before when I was going through th i s down time. One of the things that had happened was that I ' d gotten th i s scholarship to the doctoral program. So I wanted to do that. I took th i s aff i rmation as being th i s i s the r ight way to go. And with L . going back east, t h i s i s not my right way. My r ight way i s staying here. I saw th i s as a continuation of my work, going on with the doctoral program, continuing th i s kind of research and everything seemed r ight to me. I t seemed a l l of a piece. And I thought with L . , wel l maybe w e ' l l get together again some day, maybe we won't . But t h i s was at the time. There's more I have to say to you about that . But r ight where I am i s having to leave the doctoral program and I'm planning to go back east t h i s summer. The only way that I feel l i k e I can be on the r ight track i s to get away from here, because I 've been off center. I 've been r e a l l y off center. I t ' s not been r i gh t , and i t ' s been a rea l struggle to accept that , be rea l c lear about i t . I knew i t pret ty wel l at Christmas. I stayed through the whole academic year to be sure. I d idn ' t want any regrets . I wanted to be rea l c l e a r . K: So you taking th i s d i r ec t i on was one way you'd interpreted your experience? S: Ya. I thought that going on academically was the r ight way for me to go, because I was get t ing the aff i rmat ion for the work that I ' d already done. I was s t i l l in the process of doing the master's t hes i s . I took i t to mean that going into the doctoral program, I would continue doing the same sort of work. I wanted to do t h i s bad. I t was the whole meaning in my l i f e , pret ty w e l l . I have to f ind another way of doing i t . This i s not a place where I can do i t , you know, things as they are. I can ' t be myself there. I t ' s just been r e a l l y clear for me. I t ' s almost l i k e . . . I mean th i s would seem l i k e an extreme statement in any other context, but i t ' s l i k e for me, worshipping graven images or sacred cows or anything other than the rea l th ing . I can ' t do that . I c an ' t . Having experienced that, I can ' t accept anything else as my r e a l i t y . This i s my r e a l i t y . And so I haven't had another experience l i k e that . I think I look for i t a l l the time. I 've had dreams that have been 251 important for me. So i t ' s l i k e making decisions almost in the dark. I t ' s as though I'm back in the mundane world again and having to make decisions in that way, which has been hard. But I know what's r i g h t . I have a sense of what's not the way, and that a way w i l l open up whatever i t i s . R: Is that something you take from your experience, a sense that you w i l l have an answer? S: Yes, I think so. I think that I have to have that t rus t going into something tha t ' s r e a l l y unknown. I'm going back east. I'm going to . . . w e l l , part of what happened . . . to t ry and c l a r i f y things for you. There are a number of things that happened as a resul t of t h i s . A number of things. The biggest thing was that I got strength and c l a r i t y and th i s d idn ' t take long. This was a matter of days that I was reconnecting with people. R: What did you do wi th in the f i r s t few days? You said the f i r s t thing you d id after the experience was go to the bathroom. What was your fee l ing there? S: I remember looking in the mirror and seeing myself white, just l i k e dead white and my eyes were just sh in ing . I looked r e a l l y changed. I looked changed. The f i r s t few days I f e l t a l i t t l e b i t shaky. I f e l t very, very vulnerable because i t was l i k e coming back to earth again after having experienced something so profound. I t was hard. There was a b i t of un rea l i t y . I plugged in my phone that night and i t was too soon because I got a c a l l from someone who had applied for the doctoral program. She's someone from out of town. She'd been given my name and she wanted to t a lk with me and I was in a very strange space. She was a very asser t ive woman, and -for us to communicate with each other was very hard. I think she found me very strange and she got more and more asser t ive with me and I was backing off more and more. She wanted me to t ry to . . . she said what's your schedule. .Wel l I d idn ' t have a schedule. I was t ry ing to come back to earth again after having had th i s experience. So we f i n a l l y . . . i t was just not a time where I could ta lk to her with any sense about the whole s i t u a t i o n . So I just wasn't ready. The next day, what I d id Monday, I went up to the un ive r s i t y . I went to the l i b r a r y at the school of theology, which i s a place I l i k e . I go there and browse around when I have the time sometimes. But I wanted to f ind something on myst ical experiences because I thought tha t ' s what I 've had. I want to f ind out about i t . I found a l i t t l e book by 252 Hathel on myst ical experience and I loved i t . I brought i t home and I was reading and i t just r e a l l y h i t home for me and I thought gosh th i s feels . . . th i s sounds l i k e what I 've been through. I wanted to understand i t . I wanted to t ry to understand th i s experience I ' d had. So that was Monday. Tuesday I went for a walk in the park. During the walk I remember fee l ing much more connected, seeing some people I knew and just t a lk ing a l i t t l e b i t with them, coming home and c a l l i n g P. That night I c a l l e d P. I also had a dream. I had a dream that indicated to me I could ta lk with him, that i t would be poss ib le . I c a l l e d him Tuesday night and I saw him on Wednesday for an hour and a h a l f . We had a wonderful t a l k . I t was inc red ib l e . Before I couldn ' t communicate with him at a l l . I f e l t that i t was just impossible. I talked to him. I t o l d him about th i s experience. I f e l t complete understanding. I ta lked to him about the way I f e l t about the changes to my thes i s . I had an understanding about h is point of view that I hadn't before. I think I came to understand from th i s experience. I came to understand the resul ts of the study in a di f ferent way, and i t was a much more profound way, and that I had been in terpre t ing i t too narrowly. So t h i s became clear to me. I could understand his perspective as I couldn ' t before, and I f e l t l i k e I was understood by him. I had that sense of here i s something real going on. It was at a l e v e l of s p i r i t that I hadn't r e a l l y . . . I had sensed i t . I thought I knew i t . I thought I knew what I was doing, but I d idn ' t r e a l l y know. I t was a knowing that was not deep enough or c lear enough. I f e l t for the f i r s t time, in a sense, that here I was, knowing what I was doing with th i s thes i s . P. said to me that he d idn ' t think that I had changed a l l that much. He said I think that you're more s o l i d and more grounded. But i t ' s as though you're back to where you always were. You were back to yourself again . . . the way that he saw me. But for me i t was quite t o t a l l y new. I t was almost l i k e a . . . i t was l i k e a r eb i r th experience, a coming out of the dark and becoming new. That was the way that I f e l t , that I was new, So the re la t ionsh ip with him has been r e a l l y d i f fe ren t . I f e l t ever since that time that I could ta lk with him and I had that t r u s t . So that was a r e a l l y big th ing . I got back to work on my thes i s . I kept with i t and I stayed with i t . That part was f ine . The re la t ionsh ip with L . changed. We had been