After the chores of the day were done I ventured off with Olive, my faithful border collie companion, and we went to our nearby state forest to hike into the heart of the woods. My aim is always to avoid as many people as I can and experience as much solitude as is possible. We oftentimes hike down steep paths, skirting the presence of others, until nestling into one of the river's many curves, etched out by its persistent and ever continuous flow.
I'd like to share what I wrote in my journal as well as a picture I took. I haven't edited my entry so I apologize if the writing is a little rough. I'd love some thoughts!
I love being out here, at the river. Autumn is starting to rise up and make herself known. The forest is transforming into a kaleidoscope of many colors. Sun's gentle light filtering through living stained glass, plant cells hued crimson, orange and yellow. It all makes me want to fall to my knees!
Not to be profane, but it's as if my soul orgasms each time out here. It's like I'm experiencing a spiritual ecstasy of sorts. This is where I feel closest to God. It is even beyond what I have felt in meditation, beyond prayer...this is where His radiant presence breaks most fully into my awareness. My senses are almost overloaded with it all. Words do no justice to really describing in full what I am experiencing.
God is All. All is God. This is resounding within me and all around me.
His love gently flows with the river. I feel as if I almost flow with the river in a way as well. As if I am part of it. Allowing each little current to take me where it will. I feel this immense sense of Being, of an awareness within me transcending outwards.
There is no beginning, nor is there any end. There just is. I feel as if I'm born anew each time I'm here, bathed and baptized by His presence emanating from all that surrounds me. A mighty bird of prey just flew overhead, it's feathers bone white. It seems so sure of the direction it pursues. God, give me such assurance in the direction I am to follow you, my heart prays...
I wonder if its the fishermen, or the farmer, or maybe the hunter, who is more apt to experience God than the theologian. They are in contact with Him constantly, even if they aren't aware of it. My mind can be so bound within books, ideas, principles, philosophies and doctrines. I find the world fascinating. I find reality fascinating-and God. What could be more amazing than God? Getting to know and experience and understand His nature and reality is, I feel, the greatest quest a soul could undertake. If it can endure it. These moments of spiritual ecstasy can also be painful in a way. I have experienced His presence break upon my consciousness with such force, like that of a thunderbolt, shaking my sense of comfort. It's almost like looking directly at the sun. We are drawn to encounters with God, they are magnificent and wondrous to behold, and yet, even an attempt at a direct gaze can sear our inner senses and shake our souls with its effect.
There is good reason why those in Scripture feared encountering God. Perhaps I should be more cautious in my pursuits and a little less bold! Though God's beauty and presence can be painful and intimidating to encounter, I still long to plunge within my soul's center and find within the Source of all that is.
Sometimes I feel like I'm madly running down the corridors of my consciousness, peering around every corner with expectation and curiosity, not knowing when this labyrinth will reach its end and I will find its center. Times like these, by this river, remind me that I don't need to run. I don't even need to search really. All I need to do is be still and open myself completely to Him. When that happens, I bypass the twists and turns completely and it's as if He plucks me from where I am and places me gently in the center Himself. God is so full of grace and mercy and compassion!
Is this running around in circles for truth more of a defense mechanism I wonder?
Why would I put a stumbling block in my own path, hindering my own progress?...
I think I'm afraid of what I will find.
That God is not who or what I really imagined.
That He is something much greater, beyond words, beyond comprehension-only fully understood and perceived during moments of direct experience.
And once these moments are gone...they leave a residual reminder of the epiphanies experienced. This momentary glimpse into His character and nature, this momentary encounter with Him is branded, seared into the fleshy pathways of my soul. I can return back to them, tracing the scars they leave, fingering them with the sensors of my heart, reading them as one reads braille. In this way I get an outline, a shadowy glimpse into the truths I encountered, but their fullness has been lost. More experiences are needed to recall what has vanished and to build upon what has been retained.
Experiences of God are kind of like dreams, they quickly vanish upon waking. Except the meditator, one might argue, is really truly awakened when they have these experiences, and then when they come out of them, they go back into dancing with the illusions of life. These illusions sweep the reality we encounter away...perhaps entirely, or maybe to some unknown and discreet corner of our subconscious.
The foundation that is forming beneath my spiritual feet, building a pathway before me, leads to the Unknown but has given me enough glimpses to realize how little I know. How little most people know. It seems that it might take a whole lifetime to start forming the path, let alone climb the summit I aspire to set my feet upon.
There is hope for the seeker though! God has helped illuminate some of this path already, easing the way a bit, by having illuminated and inspired others before us. We can find direction from the Scriptures and other sacred texts and from the writings of the mystics. But they can't make the journey for us. Ultimately, each one of us has to take our own journey. It was the Buddha who said something about working out your own salvation on your own. Not depending on truths handed down to you, but testing everything by your own experiences. That no man can carry another on the path to liberation. We must all walk it on our own. It can be a lonely path...but are we ever, truly alone?
I'm coming to realize that we have to be willing to potentially cast aside old belief systems when new truths are realized. If we don't, we are no longer on a genuine journey, but just living in a state of artificial and intentional delusion. How sad it is when a soul rejects new truths out of fear! Lord, help me be bold enough and true enough to myself and to you, to not fall into that trap.
My time here hasn't been nearly long enough. I have to go back, but I yearn to stay here. I could stay here forever. I feel content here and not restless, like I oftentimes do. I seek and hunger after God almost feverishly and feel almost foolish right now. For He is already Here. How could I have missed Him?? He is Now. He is within and all around. All I have to do, all anyone has to do, is open the sensors of our souls...and, with humility of spirit and complete surrender, let Him fill us with His presence.
Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section. Thank you!