I open and fill with love and other objects evaporate.
All the learning in books stays put on the shelf.
Poetry, the dear words and images of song,
comes down over me like mountain water.
Those words are from Mevlana Rumi’s poem, “Roses Underfoot,” written nearly eight centuries ago by the beloved Sufi mystic. Two years ago when I cycled to Rumi’s Tomb in Konya, Turkey I only had a sophomoric understanding of his mystical poetry. In fact that hasn’t changed that much in the time since I returned. What I did have, however, was just enough of a taste of the experience that Rumi was pointing to know that I needed to delve deeper into his life and poetry. Seven weeks and 1500 miles after pedaling out of Rome I cycled into Konya just as the imams were calling people to afternoon prayer. What a rich and soulfully overwhelming experience.
“I open and fill with love and other objects evaporate.” This mysticism thing is an elusive phenomenon, but Rumi captures what I have personally heard from dozens of people: there are experiences where the lines that separate objects disappear; there are moments of such pure ecstasy and connection that the usual distinction between the observer and the observed evaporate into a delicious Oneness; there are times when the Earth seems to stop its rotation, time stops and the entire book of knowledge is opened up before us.
And then just as quickly…it is gone. A car horn beeps. An elbow joint cracks. A gust of wind grabs you. And life returns to its mundane normalcy with its usual categories, expectations, and lines of separation and distinction.
I had my first mind blowing experience of mysticism (of course, I didn’t know what to call it back then) twenty years ago at the top of a mountain after climbing a number of miles up a steep and rutted dirt road. As I looked at the valley below me I suddenly got lost in the scenery and for a moment (maybe even a few seconds) I was no longer the observer. I was part of the painting as if a divine artist had planted me right in that spot. God was Van Gogh and I was a single iris in a vase of beautiful delicate irises.
Since that time I have experienced this same entrance into a deeper world of soul a number of times–occasionally at Sunday worship when all the elements meld together just right, often on my bicycle as my body and soul come into rhythm together, once as I sang hymns to dying hospice patient.
But more importantly than my experiences are your experiences. Since I began sharing my experience nearly a decade ago dozens, if not hundreds of people, have also shared their mystical experiences. I have heard repeatedly, “How come I hadn’t heard of this before? I think I have been a mystic my whole life.”
What really thrills me is that the experience of mysticism hasn’t followed any of the religious rules we have come to expect. Evangelical Christians are as likely as progressive Christians to recognize themselves in this language. This has not fallen into the usual conservative and liberal traps–people from both sides are claiming mystical experiences and leanings. What is most exciting is that it has even given us a language to talk with people of other faiths. Our words may be different, but the experience is the same. When both a Muslim and a Christian talk of their love affair with Allah and God, the names of the supreme deity don’t get in the way; We know we are speaking of the same love.
My experience tells me that what is really needed is a forum for people to share their experiences. Every time I share my experience I hear from five to ten more people about their experience. All I have been doing is providing the language, but you all have been giving me the substance and meat.
THIS POST IS AN INVITATION.
Over the next few weeks I will collect your responses to the following question and use the Mystic Monday space to share your experiences:
When have you felt so intimately connected to Life/God/the Sacred that usual descriptions evaporate and a delicious Oneness overtakes you?
- Responses should be no more than 500 words.
- Responses can remain anonymous, by request.
- I reserve the right to weave shorter responses into a longer post of similar experiences.
- If you have pictures to submit please send those as a jpg file.
- Please send submissions to email@example.com with the subject line “MM Submission.”
- Share this invitation with others you think might want to share their experience. It would be my pleasure to share this space with fellow mystics.