Last night I had a brief spiritual experience. Let me describe the antecedents to this experience.
Seattle has been experiencing a bit of a heat wave recently. Mild by the standards of many parts of the rest of the country, but challenging for Seattle “weather wimps” such as myself. I walked from my house to Seward Park and back yesterday morning, which took about an hour and a half. This route includes a bit of elevation rise and fall, so I consider it legitimate exercise. I try to stay hydrated. I bought a new pair of running shoes yesterday afternoon, and was curious to try them out for walking.
So last night I drove down to Alki Beach and went rollerblading. The sun was out, and I believe the temperature was in the 80’s. But when I got back to my car, I felt good, and wanted to try walking in my new shoes. I put on my shoes and headed north on the sidewalk. At about 20 minutes into my walk I suddenly, spontaneously, and unbidden, transitioned into an altered state of consciousness. It was pleasant, almost euphoric, and I immediately recognized it as a meditative state. For those who don’t meditate, I suppose it would be analogous to a mild cannabis high, or the anxiolytic effect of benzodiazepines. I would hasten to add, though, that this naturally occurring state had NO drug side effects, no cannabis induced anxiety, dry mouth, or lethargy.
I kept walking north as I experienced this positive state of consciousness. I began to key into the people around me. I began to experience a mild form of “universal love” at least in that I stopped perceiving other people as simply physical obstacles to move around, as I walk fairly briskly, and judging them, to seeing them as part of an organic whole. This is hard to describe, but I would say I saw them as just like me; simply a member of Homo sapiens out enjoying a beautiful evening. It was an empathetic and loving perception.
Not surprisingly, this experience faded. I think it lasted two or three minutes. It was less intense than the experience I had at Costco some time back. I was not quite as giddy as I was at Costco.
Today I am more inclined to attribute this experience to the practice of meditation than I was before, simply because its character was almost exactly like that I’ve experienced during meditation. But I hasten to add the elements of physical exertion I’ve mentioned. I suspect it’s similar to the “runner’s high” or even the meditative states experienced during the milder exertions of yoga.
I am concerned that some might find this account boastful, perhaps on the grounds that such experiences are “personal” and thus should be kept to one’s self. I hope I am not being boastful, and have decided to share this because I increasingly find meditation truly transformative, and wish I had started many years sooner. Believe it or not, meditation is somewhat demanding and difficult, and one must engage in some degree of self discipline to proceed with it as a habit. Last night’s experience was a wonderful reminder to me that disciplined practice can have real-world benefits.