We are ALL mystics. And I’m pretty confident that we’ve all had mystical experiences, we just may not know it. In fact, Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner has said, “In the days ahead you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”
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Let me flesh out the characteristics of a mystical experience and perhaps you’ll find that you, too, have had more of these than you recognize.
Ineffable – Mystical experiences are ineffable, indescribable, hard to put into words that are adequate to express how it felt and what happened.
Beyond time and space – There is a sense in mystical experiences that you’ve stepped outside of reality for a moment. That time has stopped, or that there is no delineation of time. Past, present and future all meld into one for the moment. This feeling tends to dispel fear of the future, fear of death.
Knowing or awareness of the sacred – During a mystical experience there is a deep knowing of the Divine. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, one realizes that they have been connected to Something More. It is a gut feeling and may include awe, wonder, mystery, presence, peace, joy.
Unitary consciousness – Mystical experiences take us out of our ego-centered selves to an awareness that all of life is interconnected. We are no more and no less than any other person, animal, or plant. There may even be a feeling of being interwoven to the entire cosmos.
Transformative – If we allow them, our mystical experiences will change our lives. Because we are developing a deeper awareness of our oneness with all things and with the Divine, we become less judgmental, more compassionate and more justice oriented. Mystical experiences may just change us for a few moments, or like Saul/Paul who stopped persecuting the followers of Jesus and eventually became one of the greatest proponents of Jesus’ teaching, it may change us for a lifetime.
In some things I’ve read, the authors seem to suggest that to have a mystical experience, one must practice contemplative prayer or meditation. But, I think what is more to the point is that to live a continuous mystical life, one that is open and aware of the presence of the Divine at all times, a spiritual practice of grounding and connection (like contemplative prayer or meditation) is almost essential.
However, as Barbara Brown Taylor attests in her book “An Altar in the World,” her experiences of the Divine happened while she was busy doing something else. Most of them are not planned, facilitated or forced. They just happen, and if we are aware enough, and perhaps brave enough, to claim them and name them, they will change us, inspire us, motivate us.
The ways we connect with the Divine, the ways we can be “high on the Spirit” are truly infinite. Music, people, animals and nature are just a few examples. The Spirit is everywhere, at all times, we should not be surprised when we catch that glimpse.
When you feel that unity, that peace, that Something More… enjoy it and celebrate it for what it is instead of writing it off as a coincidence, too much wine, something “not real,” or ignoring it and going back to what we were doing. Stay in the zone, the wave, the feeling and allow it to feed you. Let yourself be high in the spirit, in unity with all things, in love with all things, in peace with all things. Let that guide your life, your interactions with others, your outlook.
Love & Light!