“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and to find my soul”
It’s been a while since anyone’s made a post here, so I think I might resurrect this space with an interesting experience. Last Sunday night I had a massive “psychic opening”. Or, went mad, depending on how you look at it. It has certainly given me greater appreciation for the concept of “Spiritual Emergence” put forth by therapist Stan Grof. It’s worth checking out the network here in case you ever find yourself having a “spiritual emergency” or with someone who is.
The way it started reminds me of what they go on about in meditation about being the “observer self” and watching everything without judgement. I started to be able to watch/hear my body as though from the outside. I actually, for once, had no thoughts or mental chatter; I just watched/heard myself breathing as though it was someone else. I found it pretty cool and wanted to go further with the experience. I then felt this force/pull, like a kind of gravity which seemed to come from outside. It was really strong and I didn’t know what it was, so I was a bit scared, but I went with it. I also remember a light but it wasn’t a particularly bright light, more a foggy light. I found myself travelling further and further from my body. I started to see my body like a chakra chart, seeing areas that were “blocked”. My nostrils was the area I noticed the most and it felt as though they were numb or being held shut which I’m yet to fully understand. My body started to feel a bit like it was turning to stone. Upon doing some research I learnt this is something which some people have experienced while meditating and there is even a name for it:
“In one monastery, that meditative state was called the “iron man”. Those experiencing it would describe feeling something within that was immovable like an iron ball. A number of scriptures make reference to it. Like all meditative experiences, it has a birth, a life and a death. Your job as a meditater is to just not fiddle with it.” how, newbuddhist.com
I got to a point which felt like a sort of boundary. Something was asking me if I wanted to go further. I said I didn’t know anymore. I felt I was going too far and if I crossed this point I would not be able to return to my body. I will be honest, leading up to this experience I have not been happy and there have been times I’ve found myself calling out, in desperation, to a greater power out there to take me away from planetary life. Now this was my chance, I had a chance to leave. At this point many insights were coming to me such as what my life is about, the nature of life as just an experience or drop in the pool of consciousness, and gifts I bring to this world. As evident in this experience itself, I have quite an ability to “travel” and an interesting relationship with borders which I started to see as an asset as I can see each side and transfer knowledge between them. I felt the things that I have been experiencing as curses in my life are the very things that, on the flip side, can be my greatest strengths if I manage to refine them and become more balanced.
I had the option of going back to my body but I was told I would have trouble remembering this experience. So I didn’t really want to go back. It was such a phenomenal experience I didn’t want to forget what it felt like. But I worried if I crossed over then this life would fade away from me completely; I wouldn’t remember anyone I’ve met in it and I wouldn’t see my family again. I no longer wanted to leave so badly and in the end I chose to come back.
I had trouble returning to my body and physicality in general after this experience. The process was very prolonged and I was terrified I would remain in this slippery, transparent state forever. It was like coming home to find the house locked, or a plane trying to land but having nothing there. I was trying to feel around for my mattress but I couldn’t feel anything. As I became more aware of my body I felt how frozen it was and that I may have even stopped breathing. I felt really dizzy and as though I was going to pass out. I had oriented myself to the house now and the way I interpreted the dizziness and fogginess I was experiencing was that someone had left gas on and we were all being killed. My catastrophic mind was back. I managed to get up and wrenched open the back, patio door of my room to get some air in but it didn’t seem to change anything. I then worried the danger was outside and the earth was coming to an end. I got a glimpse of what it might be like for somebody who’s psychotic and so convinced that something bad is happening when it’s not. I ended up fumbling back into the house and into the hallway. I couldn’t see and could barely feel the walls around me. I was screaming out “hello?????”, “hello?????”, like a ringtone that gets louder and louder. My housemate, who I live alongside but never talk with, came out of her room and found me there, on the floor, in my underwear. I remember her asking me if I wanted her to call an ambulance but I couldn’t answer her. I didn’t really want to go down the hospital route as I felt there was a spiritual dimension to my experience that I needed to work with and they’d just give me drugs that would make me forget. As I couldn’t see with my eyes I had to see with my heart and I felt her kindness. I actually felt more connected in a way in this “altered” state. I ended up hugging her and that hug was the only thing that could ground me. I could barely feel anything else; I struggled to feel the floor beneath me and when she got me a glass of water I tipped it on myself just so I could feel something. Many spiritual folk, myself included, take for granted having a body. People trip out on drugs to transcend the physical realm but my experience was quite terrifying and left me feeling so grateful for the most basic things in this life like having a body and being able to feel and hug. I love this drawing by Shawn Coss which captures exactly what it was like, although it is given a different name.
Courtney on YouTube has also done a very atmospheric video- “An unreal world”- which takes viewers inside the experience
I was still not ok when I went back to my room. I paced up and down and crashed into my wardrobe, which I’ve since had a good chuckle about with a friend from my spiritual group. Nonetheless it was quite a bizarre experience to lose control of your body like this and if any doctor saw me in the state I was I’m sure they’d lock me away in the loony bin and throw away the key. I felt like someone who’s disabled and can’t control their movements. I was “still in there” (to flip the old cliche, the lights were off but someone was home!) but it was like something else had possessed my body. I couldn’t stop pacing and my right hand was frozen in the one position, while my left hand repeatedly stroked my body. I wished somebody would find me and help me. My movements were jolty, like a videogame with a weak graphics card. It reminded me of a little child who’s integrating into this world and learning to walk and move for the first time. I don’t know how long I paced for but eventually I saw a flash of light outside and I got scared someone was coming round the side of the house, which prompted me to quickly shut and lock the patio door which I had left wide open. I then got back into bed and stayed in bed for the rest of the morning. I had a meeting that morning but I desperately needed the rest and I would have struggled to even call them to tell them I wasn’t coming because I couldn’t hold anything. The next day it all felt a bit surreal, like something I dreamt up, but when I got up, sure enough I saw the patches of wet carpet in the hallway where I spilt my water.
So that was my Sunday night, make of it as you will. While it was happening all I wanted to do was to write it all down so I could preserve it. I have been looking forward to making this post. It was such an extreme and indescribable thing to be in such a different state of consciousness and have it carry over into waking life. It has left me with a new-found gratefulness: for my body, for my housemate, for having frameworks to understand what happened to me and for people in my life I can debrief with and who have been through something similar. I actually believe it’s an experience that as souls we’ve all had and will have again. It can be scary not feeling your body like you usually do, but trusting that there is a birth, a life, and a death to the experience, as I quoted above, can really help in those moments. I would like to experience being outside of my body again (hopefully with less terror and more mastery next time!) and for it to be a skill I can develop, as I was reading about under “Crisis of Psychic Opening” here, but for now I’m definitely keen to rest and recoup!