In 1974, I was blessed with the gift of tasting the most profoundly cosmic experience of Love possible, often called Enlightenment or, in Eastern traditions, satori or samadhi. The label does not matter. The experience does, in that it altered my perceptions of Reality forever. I now know that Enlightenment is real, that it is tangible, that it is more than an idea.
This experience beyond words and thoughts occurred while I was living in Swami Muktananda’s ashram (spiritual community). For about two weeks, there was no “me” inside this body. There was just a void filled with Love. When I was alone in a room, I experienced what that room was like with no one in it. The walls would be breathing, noises would be happening, insects would be flying around. But there was no human presence as I had always previously experienced. Then, if a human being would come in, the room would be filled with thoughts and desires. The room became whatever that person was thinking or feeling. And I became that person’s servant, in the most beautiful sense of the word. I was just empty and humbly available to fulfill that person’s every desire, every need, every whim.
As this state of grace continued, the Universe’s inevitable tests to knock me out of Love became more and more subtle. Late one night someone asked me to vacuum the meditation hall. Of course, I said yes because yes was all I knew. There was no no in me. When I finished, I put the vacuum cleaner away in the closet and walked down the hall to go to bed.
Another person approached me and said, “Would you please vacuum the meditation hall?” I simply responded, “Sure.” I went to the closet, got out the vacuum, and began contentedly cleaning again. Well, it was not really again because there was no again. There was only this moment without a past or future.
About halfway through my “second” round of vacuuming, someone else came up to me and said, “Didn’t you just vacuum this a little while ago?” I responded, “Yes.” He said, in a critical tone, “Then don’t waste your time doing it again. Put the vacuum cleaner away and go to bed.” I happily complied with no hesitation. There was no “me” inside to argue or resist. There was only a willingness to serve.
Another test occurred daily in the showers at about 4:30 a.m. The water fluctuated frequently from piping hot to freezing cold without warning. I would stand in the shower, and, as an icy cold blast occurred, there was in me only a “yes” to the experience of my body being frozen. Instantly, the water would return to piping hot. Many people complained of long, freezing showers. I am convinced that my blasts of cold water lasted only momentarily because of my unconditional “yes” to whatever came my way.
The test that I finally flunked was one hundred percent devastating. I was using twine to wrap some packages about to be mailed. There were several three or four inch pieces of string left on the table as I finished the job. Just as I was throwing them into the waste basket, a woman walked into the room and very harshly shouted, “Don’t do that! We save those!” I reacted with a loud, “What” My thought was, “This lady is crazy!”
As soon as this occurred, I felt as if I had been shot from a cannon out of Heaven. I helplessly watched my reaction destroy the delicate harmony of Love. All of a sudden there was an “I” again. My judgemental no created an “I” that was separate from the whole. The price I paid for “I” was feeling as if I had been yanked out of a pool of divine nectar and was instantly dying of thirst in the desert.
The next day I plummeted into a suicidal abyss. I talked to the people running the ashram, but they could not help me because none of them had had a similar experience. Muktananda was away at the time, so I finally left in despair. I struggled for many months with suicide. If I could not live in bliss, I did not want to live at all. From this experience, I gained deep insights into the suicidal frame of mind and found its gift. However, that is another story to be revealed later.