This afternoon I was munching my way through my lunch when I slipped and flicked a forkful of baked-beans and sauce all over my jumper and trousers. I experienced a flash of irritation. This was quickly replaced by calm amusement. I was at home by myself – messing up my clothes mattered even less than it usually would, which would not be much.
As I pondered the typically unremarkable sight of several squishy beans and blobs of red-orange goo, arranged randomly on my off-white sweater, I had what I will reluctantly call a Mystic Moment. I am reluctant to call it this because it makes me sound like I have tickets on myself. In order to dispel this impression, allow me to willingly point out that I am an utter dork with baked-bean stains on my jumper who knows for a fact that everybody has these insightful moments, even those who don’t much think in terms of the spiritual.
‘Describe this Mystic Moment,’ I hear you ask. ‘What did it look like?’
Like squished beans on a jumper, only kind of magical.
Even though we all have them, Mystic Moments are hard to describe. The closest I can come is to waffle about the rare small moments where the mundane is seen through a prism of the fantastic. A ‘moment of clarity’ where the normal appears Divine; the small appears enormous; the subtle becomes obvious; the truth becomes apparent; the God in all common things becomes easy to see. It is a feeling of peace and transcendence; the exact feeling that some of us spend hours (even days or weeks) trying to recreate through determined spiritual practice -rituals, meditation, prayer - sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
What is this? Why is it that I sometimes meditate on the Tao for hours only to feel nothing but ordinary? And why suddenly, when I am not looking for it, do I see the Divine, clear as day, in the most ordinary of things? And why is it often so hard to deliberately capture this sensation again? Or to describe it in words?
My only answer is that it is not that we have seen the Divine, but that the Divine has chosen to reveal itself to us at this moment. It reminds me of an inspirational saying in a frame that hangs on the wall at my parents house:
‘Happiness is like a butterfly; if you chase it, it flies away; when you turn your attention to other things, it comes and gently lands on your shoulder.’
I remember having one of these moments was a boy. I was riding in the back seat of my mother’s red Vauxhall Viva. Mum was trying to negotiate a right turn across an intersection. Never a fan of driving, she was having a hard time of it while I was blissfully day-dreaming in the back seat.
Questions arose like mushrooms in a hurry. How do we know that all of this is real? All of a sudden it all seemed more like a dream than reality. And yet everyone was always so serious about everything. Obey the rules or else. Be good or God will get upset, and so on. How did we know that God even existed? He didn't seem to be around much. And if we didn't know if God really existed or not, and if 'reality' as we knew it seemed unreal and like a dream, what proof did we have that things are what we have decided they are?
I probably wasn’t yet aware of the word ‘arbitrary’, but if I had been, it may have come to mind.
Naturally, I decided to ask Mum for some clarification.
'Mum, is life real?'
Mum, clenching white-knuckled to the steering wheel, still hadn’t managed to turn right.
'I don't know, and I don't care!' came the strangled reply. This was not the answer I was hoping for, yet I felt very peaceful, as if asking these questions were in itself enough.
The second time that I remember having this experience was just after I had begun to experiment with meditation about nine years ago. I was sitting at the train station in the Melbourne suburb of Windsor, staring at the bricks on the other side of the tracks when suddenly everything seemed incredible. I was overtaken with a feeling of intense bliss. Coupled with this feeling came a difference of vision – as in the way things actually looked through my eyes. Looking at all the simple, inanimate, everyday objects around me - like the rocks between the tracks, the litter spread here and there, the bricks, the benches, the rubbish bins, the chewing gum trodden into the bitumen - I saw an energy, a connectedness, a oneness, a mystery, a beauty, a love inherent in all these things.
And then I caught my train, and the Mystic Moment was gone.
I thought I might be either going a pleasant variety of crazy, or being a bit of an egotist at the best of times, that I must have suddenly become enlightened. But I soon felt far from this, and, asking around, I discovered that just about everybody I knew, the spiritual and the cynics alike, had experienced similar, fleeting moments of incredible transcendent clarity – it is apparently a common phenomena.
If you haven’t experienced this, then I have one word for you: Meditation. Give it a go.
These Mystic Moments are amazing, but for every one of these moments, we all have thousands that feel far from transcendental. Some feel so ordinary they are almost intolerable. At these times we are asleep, we have disconnected from the Universal Consciousness, forgotten to see the world through the wondrous eyes of a child. Sudden flashes of Divine Consciousness are reminders. Reminders to wake up. To stop projecting forward or backward in time and just be in the moment. To remember that this is it. The present moment is all we have, and all we will ever have.
Mystic Moments are a gift, sent to remind us that we are extremely lucky to be given the opportunity that is life, that this life we have is not going to last forever, and that the Divine is everywhere – even in the baked-bean stains on my jumper!
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Categories: Meditation, Tao, Taoism, Zen