An Incredible Experience

I had an incredible experience about the time of the summer solstice of 1973 shortly after I arrived at Father Eli’s farm in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. The experience was so powerful that it changed my life into a new direction towards righteousness and liberation.

[The following is an excerpt from Mindfulness Breaks: The Zen Teachings of Father Eli.]

There was a group of about ten of us – all eager to learn what Father Eli was to teach. I had no idea what I was getting into, and didn’t realize that I would be taught to train people to do the special Mindfulness Breaks! When this training began, I was especially moved and grateful to be in the presence of such wonderful teachings. Each morning, I would do yoga and meditation according to the teachings of Swami Rama and each afternoon, I would do a Mindfulness Break.

One morning during the first week on retreat, I sat in my Ford van on my zafu facing the front of the van. I was mentally repeating my mantra when I seemed to disappear into emptiness. I was empty of a separate existence from space and time. The feeling of it is really indescribable. There was no joy and no sorrow. There was no happiness and no sadness. I was one with the whole cosmos. This experience, I knew, was beyond achievement and non-achievement. When I came out of it, I knew it was a life-changing experience. It was similar to, but more intense than the experiences I had on three separate occasions when I was 19.

The first took place during a performance of the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven…

The second experience came during Kol Nidre – the night before Yom Kippur…

The third experience came a week later the day before my sister was to go off to college. She was two years younger than me, but only one grade behind…

This third event confused me even more. Was there a God? Did he exist? Was he telling me something? How do I understand these visits of bliss in an altogether unhappy life? What is the significance of the feeling of emptiness I had experienced?