Mindful Musings

“Dreams worth Chasing”

By: Forrest RiversThe Significance of Dreams John, a friend of mine from Colorado, shared his dreams with me on a (socially distanced) yet inspiring hike through the mountains together. In the year leading up to the pandemic, this highly talented sound engineer and music booker spent around 80 hours a week working at a music venue. While he found his work satisfying, he confided in me that the long hours and breakneck pace of booking bands six nights a week and running sound for those same acts had taken a toll on him emotionally. Like many skilled workers in the entertainment industry, John suddenly found himself unemployed when all bars and music venues were forced to shut down as COVID-19 began its rampage through the United States. But he was one of the lucky ones. In contrast to the countless millions of frustrated and desperate laid off workers that would follow, John experienced a smooth transition to the unemployment rolls. He related to me that the time away from his job has provided him with greater balance and fulfillment in his life. It has also strengthened his relationship with his wife and filled him with more gratitude for all the positive things in his life. Most of all, his hiatus from the daily grind has given John the courage to chase his dreams and live life to the fullest. His dream is to move off to a remote and beautiful track of land his mother owns outside of Moab, Utah. Specifically, John and his wife want to live on that land in an RV that they recently purchased. In inspiring fashion, the couple has decided that there is no better time then now to pursue their dream and take a courageous leap into the unknown!

During this period of crisis, stories like John’s are growing in frequency. With far more time off to spend contemplating our lives, many people are coming to the realization that now is the perfect time to finally pursue their dreams. With death staring us in the face and with the highest percentage of people out of work since the Great Depression, this moment has carved out an existential crossroads that we are all being called to navigate. Some of the questions we may be asking ourselves are as follows:

  • Once this crisis ends, do I really want to rejoin the “rat race” once more?
  • How might following a different path enrich me spiritually?
  • Is it really too late to change directions and follow my dreams?
  • How can I contribute to the uplifting of the human race?


As more of us begin asking these questions, we will inevitably come to find our answers through spirited moments of contemplation. And in these precious moments, the answers we seek will become clear as day like it has for my friend John. Despite its tragic death toll, COVID-19 has also been something of a blessing for many people who have felt “trapped” in the capitalist machine for far too long. The conditions are ripe to pour one’s time and energy into pursuits that more meaningfully serve the highest qualities of the human spirit. For other people, like my brother soul Alex, this pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse has only confirmed for him that he wants to take decisive steps in the next year to leave his well-paying engineering job and follow his dream of co-founding an off the grid peaceful community with other like-minded beings. In his mind, the economic system has badly failed far too many people and he would like the opportunity to show that a better way his possible. He envisions a community that serves the dual aims of providing a space fully conducive to spiritual growth while being grounded in the spirit of service. A beautiful and noble dream indeed! So beautiful and noble, in fact, that I hope to co-found this very community with him!

It is fully within our power to shift our perspective of COVID-19 from one of “doom and gloom”, to that of seeing this moment as a rare opportunity to follow our dreams through the grace of suffering. If we can manage to flip the dial of our awareness from pessimism to hope there is no limit to how far we can evolve in our consciousness and in our union with the One that has been called by many names.

Mindful Musings

“The Power of Loving Kindness”

By: Forrest Rivers

Home 2018 - Buddha Weekly: Buddhist Practices, Mindfulness, Meditation

Two of the primary purposes of meditation is to learn to let go and to recognize one’s interconnection to all things. During this period of mass sickness and poverty, Metta is a profound meditation technique that at once achieves both goals. Metta roughly translates to “benevolence” or “loving Kindness” in Pali, and comes to us from the Buddhist tradition. The purpose of this exercise is to focus on cultivating and sending feelings of goodwill to all beings. I was first introduced to it at my first group meditation I ever attended. The session was led by an inspiring dharma teacher named Dave Smith. Smith, who has made it his life’s work to aid in the recovery of those with substance abuse issues, led us through a 20-minute Metta practice. In that first sitting, we were asked to imagine sending rays of love to all sentient beings. This guided meditation so moved my spirit and opened my heart that I began attending Dave’s Sunday evening session each week.

Looking back now on that fateful day in early 2013, I am amazed at how completely this simple yet meaningful practice touched my soul. After seven years of reflection on the power of Metta practice, I have come to realize why it is so impactful: loving kindness meditations simultaneously quiet our restless minds and open up our wayward hearts. In these times of fear and uncertainty, what could be more inspiring than sending our deepest wishes of love and goodwill to the planet when we wake up in the morning or go to bed at night?

Through the ages, it has been said by more than a few sages that meditation is the highest form of prayer because it breaks down the separation between the external world and our own soul’s inner yearning for peace and oneness. If it feels right for you, you might find the following COVID-19 adapted Metta practice helpful:

“Find a comfortable position either sitting cross-legged or on the floor or seated up right on a chair of your choosing. Then, slowly close your eyes and bring your awareness to the center of your heart as you begin to inhale and exhale long deep breaths. As you deeply breathe in and out, imagine filling your heart with pink or green light(colors of love) on the in breath and then imagine sending that same light out to the world from your heart on the out breath as you repeat these words to yourself: may all beings be free, may all beings find peace and may all beings be blessed with good health as this pandemic passes like the seasons.” Try this practice for 15-20 minutes. But by all means, feel free to do it for shorter or longer intervals than what I suggest if it feels more comfortable for you”.

Metta meditation has the power to heal our minds and hearts. Remarkably, too, it could also heal the whole world in a time when we are in desperate need of healing. Two studies on the power of loving kindness were conducted in Jerusalem and in Lebanon in the 1980s. In both studies, Scientific researchers found overwhelming evidence of a powerful link between the practice of mass metta(loving kindness) meditation circles and lower incidences of war. As originally reported and published in the academic journal of Conflict Resolution (1988), during days of high attendance at a peace meditation held in Jerusalem, war deaths in neighboring Lebanon decreased by 76 percent. On those days of intention filled Metta Practice, crime and traffic tickets in the near vicinity went down as well. Incredibly, the exact same study was replicated again (with even stricter controls) and produced the same results as reported in the academic journal of Social Behavior and Personality (2005).

If Metta meditation practice can bring peace to a war-torn people imagine what it could accomplish in terms of alleviating all suffering related to COVID-19! When love meets prayer full intentions the possibilities for the evolution of human consciousness are endless. However, one question does arise: how can one go about starting a meditation or prayer circle during a time that requires social distancing? Max Reif, an inspiring writer for the conscious writing collective, the Mindfulword,org, may have the answer. In one of his many thoughtful articles written for this online publication, Reif relates how he has learned to tap into virtual online spiritual communities through Zoom(the interactive web interface program that has soared in popularity during the crisis) to cultivate the feelings of loving kindness:

In Reif’s Words:

“I rise, as often as possible, at 5 a.m. At 6:30, I attend “Virtual Morning Arti,” an international Zoom gathering of Meher Baba devotees. We recite prayers, sing two spiritual anthems and then spend an hour sharing whatever songs, poems, messages or anecdotes people are inspired to contribute. This event often leads me to great heights of joy! While the external world continues its hard slog, my internal world is brought to a point of shining—more than before the pandemic I think.”

Maybe, we can all follow Reif’s example. Is it really a stretch for our imaginations to envision meditation circles popping up all over the world through virtual connections? I don’t think so. Besides spreading some much needed peace and love right now, the emergence of such gatherings(even if they are only virtual) will also inspire hope…..the true motor of the human experience.


Mindful Musings

To the disappointment of many activist-minded folk, it is becoming resoundingly clear that little change in the way of peace will ever occur through politics.As many people worldwide are beginning to realize, our global political system is thoroughly corrupted to its core. In their quests to secure money, power and fame, wealthy politicians respond only to the narrow concerns and interests of their big-money donors and corporate constituencies.

Viewed in this light, the popular political vehicle of voting is a charade played by the wealthy and powerful few to promote the illusion of choice. It is also a cynical ploy designed to win our allegiance to a system that we all know to be morally wrong.

Voting is also a superficial and ineffective means to bring about peace. Expecting peace to arrive through electing people whose impulse it is to wage violence is about as sensible as hiring a known scam artist to manage your finances. Henry David Thoreau was correct when he once wrote the following about the futility of voting:

All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or back gammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it.

While the horrors of institutionalized violence will not end through formal political channels, nor will it cease through violent confrontation with the system itself. Much to the disappointment of self-described ‘anarchist’ youth everywhere, employing violence to dispose of the system’s warmonger ways is definitely not an effective moral strategy to bring about peace. Pure anarchism neither condones violence nor welcomes chaos as an organizing principle of human relationships.

As ruthless as governments and corporations can be, meeting their institutionalized violence with mob violence only winds up begetting more violence! As the wise Jesus eloquently put it millennia ago:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

If we as a species intend to ever transcend our bloody cycle of aggression, we need to ground our actions in love and understanding. Everlasting peace can be achieved in no other way.

How can you expect to inspire cynics of world peace, if all they see is violence in the streets that’s meant to achieve otherwise noble goals? Governments and corporations are made up of living and breathing people, with the same capacity to feel as you and I.

One of our responsibilities as humans is to encourage others to come out of the darkness of hate and into the light of love. Employing violence to bring about peace is an internal contradiction. There is a reason that great leaders like the late Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi are so fondly remembered. Both men won over the hearts of even their most bitter adversaries through peace and love.

The limitations of protesting for peace

Non-violent, direct protest has been the most popular path by which people have attempted to address grave social and environmental injustices. This collective tactic has proven effective for bringing about peace, only when its participants manage to transcend the political theater of separation. Ram Dass, an infinitely wise spiritual teacher, fully captures this point in saying:

You may protest if you can love the person you are protesting against as much as you love yourself.

True movements for peace are deeply rooted in love and aim at purifying the hearts of all people. The anti-Vietnam War and civil rights protests of the 1960s are powerful examples of peaceful action. Both movements began as political demonstrations against war and inequality, but eventually evolved into spiritual testaments of love.

The 2016 protests by indigenous peoples against the construction of a massive oil pipeline, near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, is an inspiring example from current times.

In that instance, indigenous peoples from around the world united against the proposed desecration of the sacred Earth. For several months, these brave souls camped out, kept continuous prayer circles and endured savage displays of cruelty at the construction site. Despite the violent reactions by authorities, the original peoples remained peaceful as a testament to their faith in humanity and their indigenous traditions.

However, each of these examples are exceptions to what commonly occurs during peaceful protest. All too often, demonstrations become muddled in the illusion of separation.

This is the challenge that all sincere peace activists must eventually confront and transcend. For whenever protesters fail to love the persons they are protesting as much as they love themselves, they descend into the murky waters of self-righteous action. The result is that some activists wind up releasing the same negative vibrations of fear and hatred as the groups they are protesting against.

History is rife with examples of once-peaceful protests becoming violent or consumed by divisiveness. From my own past experience as an anti-war protester, I can recall two instances when anger built up within the hearts of the participants and escalated into verbal conflict. Such experiences only reinforced the false ‘us’ versus ‘them’ duality and severely damaged the credibility of our message.

The problem of maintaining momentum in protest is an added issue that impacts the success of peace movements. Unquestionably, though, protesting remains among the most dramatic and effective ways for bringing attention to mass violence.

Marches, pickets, boycotts and symbolic occupations are all effective tactics for uniting otherwise disassociated groups in society. However, once awareness is raised and interested groups begin unifying under a common banner, the inevitable question arises, “Where do we go from here?”

Often, the answer to this question is to direct the momentum of protest activity into influencing political elections. This strategy may very well result in the achievement of significant short-term victories for peace—particularly within our local communities. Still, in terms of advancing the vision of peace, electoral politics accomplishes little when it comes to striking at the root of our aggression and violence in the first place. That root is ego.

We all need to look within

While non-violent protest can be a powerful means for bringing awareness to and mobilizing activists for peace, it alone will not alter our tendencies to inflict harm on one another. If we as one human family wish to work toward an everlasting peace, we must each find our own inner peace by looking within through the power of prayer and meditation.

Imagine if all human beings learned to pray and meditate regularly. Two positive outcomes would immediately result. First, every person would refuse to inflict harm on any other being. Second, as a collective, we would no longer support those structures that are fundamentally unpeaceful.

Once we all learn how to achieve peace within ourselves, violence will no longer be an issue. Aggressive outcomes like war and environmental devastation are collective reflections of our inner states of turmoil. If we hold fear and hate within our hearts, then hate and fear will guide us in our power roles as statesmen, corporate officials, law enforcers and even protesters.

The key is to cultivate the peaceful intentions of tolerance, forgiveness, compassion and love within yourself. Before setting out to change the world, we must first change ourselves.

Each individual’s path to awakening may take years or even lifetimes. And that is OK. We are each endowed with the ability to awaken. The path to becoming a peaceful being begins with tapping into that natural space of stillness that resides within us all. This space has been called many different names—Oneness, God, The Great Emptiness, the Atman or Absolute Being.

The Chandogya Upanishad—a sacred Hindu text from the larger collection of Upanishads—describes this space as far beyond fear, separation and ignorance. It is a space of faith, unity and wisdom that is more vast than the mind can comprehend.

As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained in that inner space, both fire and air, sun and moon, lightning and stars. Whether we know it in this world or not, everything is contained in that inner space.

The text goes on to describe the feeling of bliss in this space:

The self is hidden in the lotus of the heart. Those who see themselves in all creatures go day by day into the world of Brahman hidden in the heart. Established in peace, they rise above body consciousness to the supreme light of the Self. Immortal, free from fear, this Self is Brahman, called the True. Beyond the mortal and the immortal, he binds both worlds together. Those who know this live day after day in heaven in this life.

There are two primary channels through which we can access the inner space described in The Chandogya Upanishad: the first is through the power of prayer, and the second is through the practice of meditation.

Prayer can be thought of as an invocation or act of soulful communion during which one shares their faithful intentions and conscious desires with the Universe. Meditation is the act of stilling your mind and tuning your soul towards the vibrations of the Universe. In the depths of meditation, one learns how to listen for the Universe’s insights and guidance.

In accessing this inner space, it is important to understand that prayer and meditation are not duelling counterparts. Just as joy and suffering are part of the same cycle, so it is between prayer and meditation.

No seeker of peace may be said to truly know the one without the other. Our faithful intentions and conscious desires cannot be fully known and expressed in prayer without us first coming to know them through the stillness of meditation. Conversely, we won’t fully know how to listen for answers in meditation if we have not yet learned how to cast prayer onto our hopes and dreams.

Benefits of the inner path to peace

As we begin to pray and meditate with some regularity, we will intuitively come to recognize the growth of three positive qualities.

First, we will become more compassionate. As we begin to sit in meditation and prayer for longer intervals, we will feel the space around our hearts start to loosen and our love for all beings increase.

Further, as we learn how to direct intentions of goodwill to all life, our practice will enable us to act with greater compassion in our day-to-day lives. In fact, a deep and persistent yearning to devote their lives to serving the Earth and humanity will come to nag at the souls of peaceful beings.

It is no coincidence that some of the most dedicated social reformers from the past have also been some of the most compassionate people. It is also not a coincidence that these same individuals spent considerable amounts of time in meditation and prayer, cultivating feelings of goodwill.

Such inspiring figures for peace, such as Christ, Buddha, King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela, were also known for their uncompromising commitment to inner work and personal transformation.

The historical time periods and regions they lived in were different, but the essence of their message was the same. True peace can only be achieved when we each make the choice to look within and offer the peace we find to the world. As Gandhi beautifully put it:

I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and peace.

Through prayer and meditation, we also cultivate a deeper faith in the Way of Things, the Universe, God or IT. When we still our minds and open our hearts, a vast world of inner knowing is revealed. This space of serenity bursts forth into our consciousness to command more focused attention. As we tap into this space, all events and happenings on the physical plane of reality are imbued with a deeper sense of meaning, purpose and perspective.

Suffering through sickness and disease, landing in prison, being trapped in an abusive relationship, losing a home and experiencing the loss of a loved one are all trying life experiences. In lessening the emotional pain of each event, it makes little difference whether we pray or meditate. Regular prayer and meditation allow us the experience of being present with our suffering, and the ability to be present offers new perspectives from which we can view our own suffering.

Pushing nothing away, one can simultaneously confront the profound emotions of sadness and despair, while gaining deeper insight into the reasons, lessons and potential for growth that arise from suffering.

The ability to be present, while keeping our hearts open, opens a window into the higher realms of conscious action and pushes us into union with the Mind of God. Faith is the direct outcome of this communion. And from faith comes love, the fruit of true wisdom.

As we pray and meditate with greater frequency, a third quality will begin to emerge: an absolute sense of clarity as to the connection of all things in the Universe. The poet Nancy Wood powerfully conveys this feeling of oneness, in the spirit of the Taos Indian:

Now this is what we believe. The mother of us all is earth. The father is the sun. The grandfather is the creator who bathed us with his mind and gave life to all things. The brother is the beasts and trees. The sister is that with wings. We are the children of the earth and do it no harm in any way. Nor do we offend the sun by not greeting it at dawn. We praise our grandfather for his creation. We share the same breath together; the beasts, the trees, the birds, the man.

Within the depths of both prayer and meditation, we can’t help but feel a deep kinship with all beings of the Earth. It is this profound sense of interconnection that sparks monumental shifts in consciousness and breaks down barriers of separation. It is the illusion of separation that frustrates our attempts at world peace. Anthropocentrism, racism, sexism, nationalism and class ism are all faces of a false reality that pictures the web of being as a collection of unrelated parts.

Worse still, our culture teaches us that all other parts are to be feared and dealt with aggressively. Through prayer and meditation, we can learn to overcome the dark forces of ego and achieve a state that the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hahn calls ‘interbeing.’

The inevitable march to world peace

The path to world peace will not be easy or predictable. It will likely unfold as a bumpy road filled with many surprises along the way. Some of these surprises will be pleasant, while others will not be quite so. However, it is inevitable that humanity will one day find peace, because the essence of this universe is love and righteousness.

There remains one question that both activists and spiritual seekers might ask: How, exactly, does each individual’s awakening consciousness translate to the forging of a collective consciousness of world peace?

To answer that question, as more of us begin to awaken spiritually through prayer and meditation, our personal acceptance of violence will wither away. Men and women who once turned a blind eye to rampant militarism may one day refuse to support the war machine with their presence and dollars. Police officers, who once acted violently due to their fear of other races, may find themselves unable to engage with their brothers and sisters in that way. The people of the globe may no longer tolerate the misdeeds of their megalomaniac rulers or the predatory corporate schemes that threaten the Earth’s ecosystems.

Upon awakening to Oneness, it will be seen as a spiritual necessity to protect our beloved Mother Earth from the misguided plundering of her resources for short-term profit. Conscious citizens will demand much more from their governments in the way of regulating the destructive tendencies of enterprises. It is also likely that protest will remain a widely popular and effective vehicle for bringing about change and demanding accountability from public officials.

However, there will be a profound difference between how we demonstrated before, and how we demonstrate after the moment of our spiritual awakening. Previously, most of us have viewed the people we were protesting against as bitter adversaries and have labelled them ‘the other.’ In the future, our peaceful marches, pickets, boycotts and occupations will become passionate declarations of our faith and compassion. Crucially and powerfully, such declarations will transform those who we are trying to reach through our peaceful actions.

We will come to find that both our ‘enemies’ and ‘friends’ are equal reflections of ourselves. When we adopt this view of a unified existence, our feelings of love for all beings will be so strong that we won’t be able to sit by as innocents suffer from others’ unmindful actions.

The act of protest, then, will transcend the political theater of separation and become a collective rallying cry of our souls’ desires for peace, unity and love. The potential for world peace is boundless when we attain such awareness in action.

It is worth concluding this urgent call for meditation, prayer and peaceful action with these inspiring and prophetic words from Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Medicine Man, found within The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux (1953):

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.”


Mindful Musings

“Divine Signs and Unseen Ties” (originally published on the of Divine Guidance During Pregnancy | HubPages The Universe communicates with each of us in a unique and deeply personal manner. Often, its signs are so subtle that if we are not paying close enough attention, we will miss them altogether. However, when we allow our inner light to shine brightly, we can’t help but acknowledge its profound messages.

From my own experience, the flow of communication between each of us and the energies of the Universe takes place at the vibrational level. We draw cosmic messages through the energy we give off with our thoughts, intentions, actions and openness to the subtleties on the spiritual plane. We are both the conduit and the catalyst of such interactions. There is no separation or distinction—all is one.

Often, these cosmic messages or ‘divine signs’ come to us through the channels of what we linguistically refer to as synchronicities, mystical experiences and psychic phenomena.

Each of these terms represents our feeble attempts to apply human reason to concepts that can only be intuitively understood, for these experiences inspire deep feelings of knowing that we are all intricately tied to something far beyond what this physical world suggests.


aloha written on the beach

Synchronicity, a term coined by the late psychologist Carl Jung, is said to occur when an objective event meaningfully relates to one’s inner state of dreaming, fantasy or feeling.

In a person’s synchronistic encounter, there is no causal connection between the objective event and one’s inner state of being. In other words, the mainstream cience community cannot explain this phenomenon through the linear framework of cause and effect (event A caused event B to happen). The following is an example of synchronicity:

One day, while hiking at a park just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, I stopped along the trail to meditate. It was a beautiful day outside, and I felt connected and inspired. I sat down and fell into a deep meditation.

While in this exalted state, I soaked up the afternoon sun and visualized my visit to the island of Maui, Hawaii, 10 months earlier. Inwardly, I recounted how that enchanted place had sprung my soul to life. I fixed my mind on one of the beautiful mountains I had climbed and visualized the infinite sea of crystal blue water to one side of the peak. Towards the opposite face of the mountain, I recalled the lush green canopy of tropical trees.

There in this blissful state, I silently asked the Universe if I was destined to someday return to Hawaii to live. As I asked this question, I continued to summon the intense feelings of connection I felt while on that mountaintop.

After about 30 minutes in meditation, I came out of my trance and stood up to make my way back to the trail. However, not more than two steps onto the path, I encountered the first person I had seen on the hike. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties and was six feet tall, with short, dark hair.

However, it was what the man was wearing that caught my eye. He had on an orange sweatshirt with one word embroidered on it in large purple letters: HAWAII. I nearly fell over in disbelief. After a stunned couple of seconds, I introduced myself to him, and asked if he had ever been to the island. He responded that he had gone once before, and loved it.

For a brief moment, I debated if I should tell him about the meditation and his special role as the outer manifestation of my inner state of feeling. But I thought that he might think I was insane.

I pondered the deeper meaning of this event on the two-mile walk back to the car. My encounter with the man in the Hawaii sweatshirt seemed to capture each of the two components of synchronicity.

First, an objective event (the man wearing the Hawaii sweatshirt) meaningfully related to an inner state (my meditation on Hawaii) of dreaming, fantasy or feeling. Finally, there was no causal connection between the objective event and the inner state of being.

Rational folk would say that this event was a coincidence. However, is there even such a thing as coincidence? Doesn’t every occurrence within this great unfolding have significance and meaning? To dismiss one’s genuine encounter of synchronicity as ‘coincidence’ is to also deny that the Universe always communicates with each of us.

The mystical experience

doe in a field

The mystical experience is an awe-inspiring event, recounted through the ages by mystics, that can be described as a transcendent moment of knowing. The occurrence leaves one with a deep and intuitive understanding that they are part of a greater whole. During such an encounter, one may experience a range of emotions that include gratitude, humility and wonder.

According to the 20th-century philosopher William James, there are four components of a mystical experience:

  1. Mystical experiences are directly encountered;
  2. They tend to reveal deeply personal and universal truths about the nature of being and of one’s relationship to being;
  3. Mystical experiences are often fleeting or transitory;
  4. They tend to occur spontaneously.

I would personally add three more components to James’ list:

  1. Mystical experiences tend to occur in environments where one feels a connection, such as in nature;
  2. They radically broaden one’s understanding of consciousness;
  3. Mystical experiences build one’s personal faith.

The following is a personal account of a mystical experience that I also wrote about in The Hippie Revival and Collected Writings:

I was on a hike through the woods with my girlfriend, Rose, and my dog, Abbie. We were walking down a beautiful trail, when about 200 feet (or 61 metres) away, a doe stopped right in the middle of it. I placed Abbie on her leash so she wouldn’t give chase.

Over the course of the next 30 seconds or so, our pack and the doe locked eyes. Suddenly, it appeared as though the doe was trying to bow her head to us, as if acknowledging our presence. In all my time spent in nature, I had never seen any animal do this before. I took my eyes off the deer for one second and looked over at Rose, who began bowing to it. I turned my attention back to the enchanted creature and followed suit.

To my great astonishment, the doe bowed her head down to us. After a couple of seconds, we lowered our heads a second time to it. And the same response followed. Amazed, we bowed a third time. Again, the same reaction! Overcome with awe, Rose and I clasped our hands together and knelt to the ground. We graced her presence for the fourth time.

Remarkably, the doe bent down as low as she could go (almost like a curtsy) and bowed back to us. By this point, we were both aware that something truly mystical was happening. Not once, not twice, not three, but four times, the Doe honoured our souls!

Perhaps just as astounding was the fact that Abbie—who normally chases deer—didn’t so much as tug on the leash in pursuit of it. She sat quietly and looked on with the same wonder.

After the fourth exchange of bows, Rose and I looked at each other in disbelief, as the doe turned to walk away. As a show of respect to her, we started to head back in the direction we came from. But after only a few steps, the three of us looked back to see the deer standing in the middle of the trail again. She wished to give us one final farewell. We waved at her. Then the doe disappeared back into the woods.

This moving interaction with ‘the bowing deer’ qualifies as a mystical experience. Not only was it an awe-inspiring event for me, personally—as I know it was for Rose, Abbie and perhaps the deer—but each of the above seven qualities was present in the encounter.

This interaction with the doe was directly experienced, and it also revealed personal and universal truths about the nature of my relationship to the Universe. In the months following this encounter, I found myself meditating often on the significance of the event, from both a personal and cosmic standpoint.

Our divine meeting with the ‘bowing deer’ was also fleeting. The whole encounter took place in a matter of five minutes. The event was so brief, in fact, that the three of us would have missed out on this experience had we begun the hike 30 minutes earlier.

Our meeting was also spontaneous. I had absolutely no inkling, beforehand, that such a miraculous event would happen. I am eternally grateful that it did. The encounter with the deer also took place in an environment that I felt deeply connected to (nature), and this interaction broadened my overall understanding of consciousness. I became more confident in knowing that all things are connected as one.

Finally, how could the passing of such an event not inspire one’s own faith in Cosmic Transcendence?

Psychic phenomena

dream catcher

The term ‘psychic phenomenon’ encompasses a broad range of profoundly intuitive experiences pertaining to the unfolding of what we call future events. Psychic encounters are varied, but can include some of these remarkable happenings: spiritual visions arrived at through prayer and meditation, dream-state visions of future events and telepathic communication (when thoughts and feelings are transferred between two beings, non-verbally).

Of the three channels of divine communication, the psychic phenomenon is best known to the public, but it is also the least understood. Due to its deeply intuitive nature, describing one’s psychic experience can sometimes be a difficult task. Nonetheless, I will make the attempt.

My good friend Austin had been going through a tumultuous time in his romantic life. I knew he was suffering. One evening, I had a vivid dream about Austin. In it, he appeared sad and in need of someone to talk to. I could feel that he was both confused and heartbroken.

The dream continued to unfold in a series of random sequences of Austin. Then, very suddenly, I awoke. In that split second of waking, I reached for my cell phone to see the time, more out of habit than anything else. The time read 7:08.

At that exact moment, with the phone still in my hand, a text message came in from Austin. In the text, he asked if I would come over his house for breakfast. Later in the day, we went for a walk together, and I learned that his girlfriend had been unfaithful to him. Still later, I would recount both the dream and the exquisite timing of the text message to Austin. His reaction was one of bewilderment.

The above example falls within the spectrum of psychic phenomenon. In this instance, Austin and I appeared to be subconsciously reading each other’s thoughts and emotions—a form of telepathy. Just as I appeared to be tapping into his momentary suffering, Austin seemed to be simultaneously reading my feelings of empathy.

This bizarre sequence of events also came to me through a dream. This should not be surprising. After all, many Native American tribes have long believed that the dream state is a mystical portal into the realm of spirit.

3 channels of divine communication

On the surface, synchronicities, mystical experiences and psychic phenomena appear as distinct kinds of experiences. However, in reality, they are each channels of communication between the Universe and one’s own spirit.

The relationship of each to the other is akin to the way we should regard different religions who worship the same God: as alternate paths to the same mountaintop.