I don't know what this article will do for you, but I can't tell you what it's done for me! I haven't had so much fun since I was a young intellectual, bounding out of bed to study philosophy! I haven't had so much fun since I last rode a reined stock horse! I haven't had so much fun... Well, you get the idea. It's been a blast. As in greatly exciting! Terrific! And-- blowing me to bits.
I got the idea for this article about two years ago. "The state of ecstasy. That would be good to write about for Spurs. Many people don't know that ecstasy exists." I promptly filed the idea for "some day". A month or so ago I was at a Bill Miller concert. He's a Native American singer of great spiritual impact. Bill sang away. My heart was open. Something happened inside: BOING!!! (!!) A physical sensation in my chest. Something said, "WRITE IT!" And I knew what "it" was and I knew what was speaking. Of all the voices in my inner landscape, one is worth listening to. I'd received its command, nothing less. "Okay," said I, having learned not to fight.
I started writing. My topic is the state of ecstasy. Ecstasy comes from the Greek ekstasis, a being put out of its place. A being knocked loose from its moorings, on unfamiliar ground, able to see and feel the truth, and fly. Also: A feeling of overpowering joy; great delight; rapture. Ecstasy is your birthright, and also your shield, both in very real ways which we will explore in the article which follows.
Something else became apparent as I wrote. The state of ecstasy is the fruit of a process. Ecstasy does not beam down like something from outer space. You get it by doing your work. How did I discover this? By watching myself and my life as I wrote.
My goal was simple: I wanted this piece is to inspire you. To set your heart on fire. To ignite your own ecstasy. To send you forth into the world to begin your own revolution of love, word by word, action by action. I wanted to transform the universe.
Oh, well. Might as well aim high. You can't achieve anything unless you aim at it. I began work and quickly found that I couldn't achieve any of my goals alone. Perhaps not even with the help of my friends. Maybe with a divine intervention. But you know how those are: you pray like crazy for something and you get it 20 years later, when you want something else.
I moved forward undaunted. This piece is about the highest human states. And it's also about process. How does an ordinary mortal achieve ecstasy? How can one bring the experience across to others? This was of great interest to me: I'd committed to write this article. How would I, a housewife, achieve my goals?
I'm very interested in process. Yes, I want to see the prima ballerina do 347 consecutive pirouettes-- spinning and spinning until smoke comes of the tip of her pointe shoe and the stage ignites. I want to see the glorious final product-- the flawlessly executed ballet. The magnificent barrage of the corps de ballet. The pas de duex brought off with precision and brilliance. The solos-- impeccable. All that. But I also want to know that the ballerina has hairy legs and her partner was in the men's room throwing up because he's never mastered his stage fright. I want to know the choreographer pulled his hair and screamed at people because that's what he does when he gets stressed.
I want to know these things, not because I need to see people's flaws to feel okay about myself, but because I, the housewife, need to know that my giants are human and that hairy legs are part of life. And that they don't matter in producing the desired result. I need to know about the messy parts so that I can look at my own barriers, my own imperfections and say, "Phooey, phooey, I'm not afraid of you-ey." Or words to that effect.
Right away, I ran into my own hairy problems. I wanted to include as many spiritual traditions as possible. As many manifestations of ecstasy as I could fit on a web page. I wanted to include CD's and books and things that people could buy and take with them: Portable ecstasy. I don't know all this stuff. And I wanted to talk to some people that I regard as semi-deities about my spiritual issues. All required reaching out to living human beings.
Whoa. Big whoa. You may not believe this, but I am very shy. Sure, I send this magazine out into cyber space. That's easy. Personal contact isn't required. But call up a stranger I really admire and ask for help? Whoa. Talk to a live human being? Whoa. It's not that I can't do these things. I've done lots of public speaking, shown horses in tough competition, spoken up for environmental and other issues. Taught classes, and had several professional careers. I did all of this very well.
Now we get to the hairy legs. The part I don't talk about. I've done everything I listed fighting feelings of unworthiness, shyness, and inferiority. Almost at a phobic level, sometimes. And it hasn't gotten any better in 35 years of putting myself out there as an adult. The difference is that I'm now talking about it-- for the purpose of me getting through my stuff, and letting you know how the ballet is really made. How the roses grow and bloom with the help of manure. How ecstasy is born.
Words of some of the most ecstatic beings in history will be presented below. It's easy to read this beautiful poetry and think, "How wonderful to float through life in rapture. How incredible to have that inside. I wanna be a saint." A worthy career goal! But! Do you want to do what it takes to get there? Swami Vasudevananda, who is a Hindu monk as his name suggests, has studied many saints of various traditions. I attended one of Swamiji's lectures. He said that most saints lived horrible lives. We're talking crucifixions, floggings, being ostracized by family and society. Persecution. Slander. Really bad stuff that often killed them in very gruesome ways. And yet they come out with:
This exquisite devotional poem was written by Mirabai, a 16th century Indian poet saint. She speaks of Lord Krishna, who represents the irresistible loveliness of God, as well as the Warrior. Mira's devotion to God was so intense that it offended her royal in-laws, who stifled her in every way possible: locked her up, tried to poison her. Ostracized her. Eventually, Mira took refuge in the temple and left behind poetry of enormous impact. (The Devotional Poems of Mirabai, A.J. Alston, ISBN 81-208-0441-4 pg. 26) Mira lived in inner beauty despite her dreadful outer conditions.
What I'm suggesting is pretty obvious: saints become saints by doing what they are directed to do despite the odds. Despite the outer world. Also despite their inner worlds. Or because of them. In this way, we are just like saints. We all have a pile of luggage we carry everywhere: complexes, hang ups, and physical and mental weaknesses. A whole bag of stuff which colors how we see reality. As I see it, our job as human beings is to clean the glasses. Empty the bag. In the process, we find out who we are. In the process, our concepts, our rigid minds, become permeable. They may even shatter-- and the glory of the other side may shine through us.
This is how ecstasy happens for me: When I hear the call and step forward to become the person I was meant to be, things happen. First the inspiration: do it! So I do it. Whoa. Big Chicken comes up like a jack-in-the-box clown. With the fear comes all the reasons I didn't walk through that door sooner. I reached out and asked for help with this article. When a hand came from the other side and a voice said, "Sure! I'll help you!," I hit an inner barrier. A script I probably picked up at age 4, maybe earlier, reared its familiar head. I'm not supposed to really succeed. I'm supposed to try like crazy, but never really succeed. How I got this winner of a life program doesn't matter, it's all mine. Someone I admire vastly offered to help me. I might succeed in my quest. But I don't have the right to succeed.
I freaked out. I talked to my husband, who happened to be standing next to me on his horse when I disintegrated. Barry is my best friend. He got how really scared I was. He comforted me. When I was okay, my husband rode off. I went for a walk on the land next door. A slow, gentle, merciful walk. A contemplative walk.
When I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, the cracks in my concepts open up and I can see reality. Inner reality, and outer reality. Things happen in the outer world that confirm my inner state. I walked to the top of the hill next door, a process that involves some puffing, as well as huffing. I got to the top and bent over, hands on my knees, catching my breath. It was the end of the day: the sun was going down in the West, over to my right. All around me, the spectacular Santa Ynez Valley unfolded. I looked up and saw this:
Not more than 30' away, a red tailed hawk hovered slightly to my right. She (he?) balanced hard on an air current, looking directly at me. The setting sun was behind her, shining through her plumage: She was illumined, aflame. Her wing and tail feathers spread like fingers. I could see each one quiver as she worked to stay aloft. The hawk saw me, unafraid. The moment lengthened, and lasted. The sun shone through her, brilliant. I could hardly bear to look. I finally bent to tie my shoe. I could not stand to see that much beauty any longer. It pierced my heart. I had to turn away.
When I stood up, the hawk had glided off, down into the canyon to my right. She made a slow lazy arch and rose, flying directly at the blazing sun. I blinked, and she was gone, swallowed by the shining red disk that gives us life.
This was real-- it wasn't an interior vision. At other times, when I've done something I was supposed to, hawks have circled around my head. I'd walk down the the barn in an exalted state, and they'd be flying directly over me, drawing big circles in the sky. I feel afraid, awestruck, when this happens. Hawks don't come over our property, you see. It's too developed. Too many people and animals. Hawks fly over the cattle ranch across the street. But when I'm in a state of grace, they come to me. It's happened 3 or 4 times now. It scares me silly.
When you're doing what you're supposed to do with your life, things change in the inner and outer worlds. This is the process of ecstasy. How do we get our birthright, ecstasy? We are not so different than saints. The major difference is that saints listen better than we do, and do what they're told more frequently. Listen to this:
That's pretty clear. Now all we have to do is get rid of the unsaintly parts. The naughty bits. Which really aren't that much fun. Truly.
And that's what this article is about: Ecstasy: Your Birthright, Shield and Reward. The process of ecstasy. How do you get your ecstasy? That's what we'll talk about in the next article.
We'll get started on the article after a few thousand more introductory words. My words, experiences and point of view are presented here. I do not represent any church, movement, or organization. I make reference to my tradition, but this essay is a private effort by an individual on a family web site and not an official statement by anyone other than me. Use your own good judgment in interpreting what's below in accord with your own experience and beliefs. The music and words presented here can be mood altering. This is good: they alter mood in a good way. But-- if you read/listen to them for hours and hours and hours, and get whacked out, that's misuse. Be careful driving or operating machinery or doing anything dangerous if you feel seriously elevated by them or anything else. Be aware! Be safe!
Also, if you read/listen to this stuff and start thinking you're Jesus (or Buddha or Shiva), that's cool. Better them than many you could name. But if you begin to make proclamations or try to jump off the roof because you're God, know that you've got a problem. This isn't what we're after. Consult a mental health professional. Just be normal, people, in how you use what's below. Something else: I told one of my good friends I was writing an article on ecstasy. He said, "Oh, wow. You got any?" NO, DUMMY! I'M TALKING ABOUT THE STATE, NOT THE DRUG!
If you have to use drugs to get to ecstasy, you're missing the point. Ecstasy is not manufactured, it is a gift. The "pop a pill/get high/instant gratification/I-want-it-and-I-want-it-now" mentality is the enemy of ecstasy. Ecstasy can't be bought, bribed, cajoled, fenced in, coerced, or owned. It's not the property any organization or sect. And you can't get it in tablet form.
This article is about making your life better. About enhancing a dimension that might be missing. Deepening your experience. Learning some stuff maybe you don't know. I talk about my tradition, I talk about various religions, and I present religious music and words. I AM NOT TRYING TO CONVERT YOU TO ANYTHING OR TO INTERFERE WITH YOUR PERSONAL SPIRITUAL PRACTICE IN ANY WAY.
If you do not believe in God, great. The state of the world supports your position. One look at the newspapers will make you wonder how a loving God could allow it. Aside from the empirical evidence, contemporary philosophy points out how hard it is to know if anything exists, such as your thumb, much less God.
Nevertheless, I use the word "God" a lot. It's short, easy to type and fits my experience. God is not the old man in the sky to me. The picture below comes close to one of the ways God appears to me. Notice that the image is nondenominational. Or pan-denominational.
Many people have turned away from all forms of religion, "religious people", and the pursuit of God because of what organized religion has done to them. Some people have been maimed by cults or even their parents in the name of God. Entire civilizations have been erased in the name of God or a particular religion or religious figure. I certainly respect the aversion that arises from these causes. What we're talking about is transcendent experience. We're talking about the pursuit of the sacred. The holy. We're talking about changing ourselves and the world. So put words to what I say and present below that fit your needs. If you don't like God, use "The Great Bazonga in the Sky". Dasein-- Pure Being. The Great Mystery. The Unknowable. The Beloved. Cosmic Consciousness. Higher Power. Whatever fits for you. I don't care. I won't even know.
This is my holiday gift to you, my readers, in thanks to you for reading my stuff, in thanks to you for being you, in thanks for your commitment to the path, to your lives and to making the world fit for human beings. My writing isn't easy. It's not short. It requires intention and intelligence. You won't be reading me unless you're on the path, unless you're working to overcome obstacles. Unless we're kindred spirits. I've put my heart and soul into this, and I thank you for reading it.
Peace and blessings at this miraculous time of year,
PS: A necessary post script. If you click on any of the book or CD titles in this article, you will be magically transported to its sale page on Amazon.com. You can buy the item there and this site will receive a rebate. We give 100% of our rebates go to a terrific charity. You can also get the featured books from your local library. Or you may be able to get them from other on-line retailers for less than Amazon's prices. Take care of your finances in obtaining these items. If you don't buy through Amazon, you may want to E-mail me to find out more about the charity. Always check the reviews accompanying any item on Amazon before buying: the featured items reflect my tastes. Yours may be different. A few links take you to an Ashram or Seminary: the only place you can buy that title.
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