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After Spiritual Ecstasy,
Then What?

 


"You cannot stay on the summit forever.
You have to come down again.
One climbs and one sees;
one descends and one sees no longer,
but one has seen.
There is an art to conducting oneself
by the memory of what one saw higher up.
When one no longer sees,
one can at least still know."

~ Rene Daumal 


During the years 1991 to 2000, I went through a radical spiritual transformation that really was a profound, peak experience for me.

It all began when I read Seth Speaks, after which I went through more than 400 similar books, non-stop. I never thought the passionate feelings of spirituality would mellow and lose their intensity. But they have. 

In 2000, I read a book called After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, by Dr. Jack Kornfield. The author is an accomplished Buddhist teacher, a meditation master of international renown and someone with wonderful energy and insights. This book provides great understanding into how the modern spiritual journey unfolds.

Here are some excerpts from After the Ecstasy that will hopefully prove useful to you while on the inner journey...

"Enlightenment does exist. It is possible to awaken. Unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the Divine, awakening into a state of timeless grace - these experiences are more common than you know, and not far away. There is one further truth, however; They don't last."

"In fact, in the awakening of the heart there is no such thing as enlightened retirement. That is not how it happens to us."

"We all know that after the honeymoon comes the marriage...In spiritual life it is the same: After the ecstasy comes the laundry."

"Times of great wisdom, deep compassion, and a real knowing of freedom alternate with periods of fear, confusion, neurosis, and struggle. Most (spiritual) teachers admit this truth."

"Enlightenment is only the beginning, is only a step of the journey. You can't cling to that as a new identity or you're in immediate trouble. You have to get back down into the messy business of life, to engage with life for years afterward. Only then can you integrate what you have learned."

"Even if our transformation is great and we feel peaceful and unshakable, some part of our return will inevitably test us. We may become confused about what to do in life, about how to live in our family or society. We may worry how our spiritual life can fit into our ordinary way of being, our ordinary work. We may want to run away, to go back to the simplicity of the retreat or the temple. But something has pulled us back to the world, and the difficult transition is part of it."

"These ordinary cycles of opening and closing (spiritually) are necessary medicine for our heart's integration. In some cases, though, there are not just cycles, there is a crash. As far as we ascend, so far can we fall. This needs to be included in our maps of spiritual life, honored as one more natural part of the great cycle."

"After any powerful spiritual experience there is an inevitable descent, a struggle to embody what we have seen."

"Even recognized teachers are not beyond the experience of finding themselves shattered. One American seeker for twenty years, finally realized the fullness of (spiritual) freedom with a guru in India...His path seemed to be unfolding perfectly and he thought he had gone beyond the trouble of the world, until a crisis came."

"When the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich says she knows of no lover of God who is kept safe from falling, she is voicing the understanding that to descend is God's will... The fall, the descent, and its subsequent humility can be seen as another form of blessing."

"Sometimes a spiritual fall does not resolve quickly; it can take years to move into the next phase."

"There are certain truths we can learn only by descent, truths that bring wholeness and humility in surrender... We all need periods of fecund time, fallow time, of being drawn closer to the humus of the earth. It is as though something in us slows down, calls us back. And out of that time a deepened knowledge and beauty can emerge."

"In the inevitable rising and falling, the cycles of expansion and contraction that come as you give birth to yourself, there may be moments to push, to strive toward a spiritual goal. But more frequently the task is one of letting go, of finding a gracious heart that honors the changes of life."

"No matter what the situation, awakening requires trust in the greater cycles of life, trust that something new will eventually be born, trust that whatever is, is perfect. Wise letting go is not a detached removal from life."

If you find yourself wondering what to do with yourself after a profound spiritual awakening, as I am, take heart. You are not alone, nor is your experience unique. It is a normal part of the cycle that one discovers while on the inner journey. Something will come into your life that points a new way for you. It will be a way for you to use your new knowingness while still in the world, but not of it.

 

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