“Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill- the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill- you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
- “The Matrix”
In last month’s article on mysticism, I introduced the idea that with a certain amount of focus, intention and training, we can experience what all mystics seek: inner truth and union with the divine. The practices of the most famous mystics in the world tend to be rooted in the more formal religions, so this will be a good place for most of us to start, as we might have had prior experience with the rituals involved, such as song and prayer.
One of the greatest art forms revered since cultural antiquity was recorded is the dissemination of word, idea and story through visual or auditory delivery methods. This is also the main medium for mysticism. Written or spoken word that was widely disseminated also became a crucial and effective way of spreading and sharing ideological, political, social and theological beliefs or questions about the existence of man during the time of Plato, Aristotle and Machiavelli.
These great thinkers were also gifted storytellers as they understood that they could reach and influence the masses by providing a simple foundation or process to study and debate ideas and conceptual thought. Yet the tradition of word has connected and bridged the ancient past to the modern present with timely relevance– it might surprise you to learn the Wachowskis siblings' most famous supernatural film series, “The Matrix Trilogy”, is actually based on Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”.
The Power of Myth and Mysticism
“But I don’t want to go where the people are all mad,' Alice remarked...
We’re all mad. I'm mad. You're mad.”
– Cheshire the Cat, “Alice in Wonderland”, Lewis Carroll.
Narrative, expository, documentary and other types of story-telling have taken on an almost desperate significance today: if the current pandemic had hit even 20 years ago when streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime weren’t around to spin out news, television and movies daily to distract us from our real-world sorrows, we would be anxious, depressed and dreadfully bored during these extreme times of sheltering-in-place, quarantining and social distancing that we live in to survive.
Unfortunately, the escapism of the digital form of story and the ability to tune in any time can also lead to us to tune out – for example, addictively binge-watching all 54 episodes of a television series without interruption. While this guilty pleasure is understandable occasionally, I fear we will be reduced to always looking into digital oblivion for most of our waking hours, instead of looking for the inspiration and the power in our own story, which cannot be underestimated, especially right now- a moment in time we won’t soon forget.
Meditation: All Paths Lead to the Source
No mystical practice can begin without complete intention and focus, and the easiest way to achieve this is through meditation, but that is not to say that meditation is easy. In fact, it might be the most challenging thing one can attempt to do, but with the payoff being described as bliss or nirvana, it might be the most important thing we master in our time here in the physical plane. Connecting to past and future times, if you allow your mind to bend that way, is also possible. Find a form of meditation that works for you and practice getting into a place of calm.
Here are some suggestions to get you started with mystical practices.
Sufi Eye –Gazing (done with a partner)
The Sufi mystics believe devotional poetry, chanting, song, repetitive dancing in circles and mindful meditation are ways to achieve a state of bliss and union with their most “Beloved”, that is, God. The Sufis believe that one of the deepest connections we can experience is feeling the divine reflected through another’s soul by gazing at the stars in each other’s eyes.
Create a safe, comfortable place and sit across from the person with whom you are eye-gazing. Light a candle nearby so there is ambient, soft lighting. With a smile, gaze into your partner’s eyes with focus and intent, allowing your face to relax slowly, one muscle at a time. It might feel silly, and you might laugh and lose focus – it's okay, do it as many times as you have to until you can hold each other’s gaze for an extended period of time. Permission to peer without restraint into someone’s eyes is not something we are granted often, so don’t be surprised if allowing this type of intimacy brings about intense emotional reactions, deep feelings of belonging and best of all- pure joy in sharing something profound with your "Beloved."
The Power of Mystical Poetry, Story and Song: Amazing Grace
Birds singing in the morning are the classic embodiment of joy for a reason. They innately know something that we humans take time to learn: we all have a magical gift inside that brings us happiness when we share it with the world. Happiness is the simple pleasure of listening to a beautiful melody being played on a guitar with friends, it is to sing in unison and in union, it is sure to move and dance with others in abandoned ecstasy– these are the most surefire ways to find your true mystical soul. It’s not as difficult as you might imagine finding others who are already doing this. Even if for now, it might be virtual sharing of bliss with others who are also looking for the same: to exchange the wealth of joy.
Composing Poetry- Love Letters to Our Souls
‘Thoughts become words, and words become things, so think good thoughts!” -Unknown
If you find yourself stuck when it comes to writing, then try this exercise. It will take practice and some discipline, but writing begins to feel like both sanctuary and salvation if we can focus our thoughts the right way. Put your name on the top of a piece of paper and then start to free-write – jot down every good attribute, feeling or thought that comes into your mind about yourself next in a list. You might have bad feelings crash in, too – it's normal, but with firm self-compassion, train your mind to gently move on from the negative thought and look for the next good-feeling association and hang on to it, no matter how long it takes.
Hovering over the negative self-doubt isn’t what mysticism is about; rather it is about living ourselves into alignment so we can see the divine in our soul with clarity and conviction. Once you have 10 words down, look the words over – if that word was associated with a thought a feeling, an idea, a picture, place, color or sensation – what might it be? See if you can write a phrase or a sentence next to the word associated with the topic. You might be surprised just how much in our subconscious is waiting to be jotted down. The more we direct it toward nurturing, kind, loving thoughts, the closer we find ourselves in union with the Truth about who we really are.
By: Jyoti Paintel