It is a bright winter day. I meditate with my eyes open because I like to see the sun slanting in the windows, outshining the fire in the woodstove. Both make me happy. I can’t help see that the sunshine reveals a layer of dust on everything. That, too, makes me happy because it is Saturday, and I will think of my mother as I move through the house at her deliberate pace, getting rid of the dust. From early childhood I always helped her with the Saturday cleaning ritual.
Sun, fire, housecleaning. These are part of my treasure trove of mystical experiences. It is why I call myself a practical mystic. Mystical experiences are never far away, always accessible. I just have to be open to them.
What is mysticism, anyhow? A direct experience of the Divine, that’s the simplest definition. My mystical secret is that not all mystical experiences are big, transcendent experiences of Oneness. They come in different sizes. Small, Medium, Large. Today it’s the God of small things that I’m experiencing.
I’m reading a memoir by the late great progressive theologian, Marcus Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most. Brought up as a good, conventional Lutheran, he writes of his intellectual, political, and spiritual conversions to a vibrant form of faith that is different from, but not in conflict with, the conventional forms he was taught as a child. I identify with much of his experience. He began writing this memoir at my current age, 70, and it is uncanny how his version of Christianity matches mine, after nearly identical evolution over the years. Maybe I’ll write about that later.
But today I have one small quibble with Marcus Borg. That is that he acknowledges only one kind of direct God experience, the Large kind. Over his lifetime he had several transcendent experiences of Oneness, and that is how he knows God can be known and experienced directly. (Sometime when I am feeling more analytical I will compare his account with that of Barbara Ehrenreich, who describes identical experiences, in Living with a Wild God, but calls herself an atheist.)
I would love to have one of those Big Mystical Experiences, where the light gets all golden and everything merges into everything else and becomes exquisitely beautiful, even things and people that seem ugly in the ordinary light of day. But that has never happened to me and I’m not holding my breath that it ever will. Nevertheless, I experience God, you might say, in Small and Medium ways.
Today, Small. Fire, sunlight, the memory of my mother and feeling in my own body her slow, deliberate pace as she moved through the house. Yesterday was a Medium.
Early this month I settled on my word for this year. Rather, it settled on me in a roundabout way that let me know it was not entirely my choice. It seemed right. My theme for the year is “Joy.”
Joy has begun to work on me in quiet ways, waking me each morning to the good things that lie ahead, showing me the moment-by-moment choice I have between gratitude and worry. Little ways. Mystical experiences, size Small.
But yesterday morning I woke with a vivid dream, a definite Medium.
I am at the top of a sand cliff by the sea. I have been, in the unremembered earlier part of the dream, learning to follow my own inclinations rather than what is expected of me, and regardless of what others think. Now I stand here and think I would really like to swim in the ocean, far below, before I leave this place. But I haven’t brought my swimsuit. Shall I just throw off my clothes? There are a lot of people around. In fact, the whole dune is being cultivated in terraced, raised-bed gardens, to grow strawberries. Lots of children are around. Well. I throw off my clothes and start to run down the cliff. And I realize I have come prepared after all–I am wearing a swimsuit under the clothes. And I am not running but flying, in the above-the-ground hover that is such a treat in the dream world. Skipping/flying over the strawberry fields. I sample some berries and think of the Beatles song, “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
This was a Joy dream, my first since the word chose me.
That morning I had an unaccountable urge to go shopping for clothes for my upcoming safari in South Africa, which is 10 days away. Normally I hate clothes shopping. But I was all excited about getting some new T-shirts, go figure.
P.S. I faced down the Technology Demon and redesigned my site. I hope you like it.