While mystical experiences are not the basis of spiritual process and can even be a distraction, in my early years with Amma I believe they were a means for Spirit to get my attention and pull me in. They showed my normal logical mind that there were realms I knew nothing about and that I had to let go of my rigid way of seeing the world and learn to allow my life to unfold.
Last week, when I read Sreejit’s Dungeon Prompts: Only for the Fierce of Heart challenge, I thought of an event that occurred in 1994. Before I tell you that story let me say that I believe it takes courage and a fierce commitment to one’s spiritual journey to be willing to go places that take you out of the realm of normal experience, and also to be committed to doing “whatever it takes” along the way. Some of the processes that were happening to me in those days were public, and since I am very introverted, I believe my willingness to let them occur, with discrimination, exemplifies my fierce determination to do whatever it takes.
After I met Amma in 1989, I experienced tremendous separation grief whenever she would leave. I am so thankful that Spirit led me to places where that empty hole inside of me could continue to fill when I was not in her physical presence.
One of those places was the Power House Church of God in Christ. The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is a black Pentecostal denomination. I never thought I would go to a conservative Christian church again, but other than the fact that I was uncomfortable with many of their sermons, I loved it. The people were so loving towards me and their music filled me with joy.
At some point, my feet started spontaneously moving to the music while I was seated. Many months later, I stood up and let the dance take over my entire body. Soon I began “Dancing in the Spirit” along with other parishioners. My form of dancing often turned into whirling. That process not only removed the grief, it led to exhilarating joy.
In summer of 1994, when I attended Amma’s New York City programs, I decided to go a service at a COGIC church in Harlem. I had visited that same church the year before. At that time, I found it to be similar to Power House, but more restrained. Their music tended to be soulful rather than celebratory and I had not seen anyone dance.
This time, a friend decided to come with me. At the beginning of the service, the minister welcomed both of us and told us to have a good time. Like the previous year, there were no other white faces in the congregation.
During the time since my last visit, I had begun to experience the spontaneous dance almost every time I went to church. As I looked around this church, I saw the ushers were children. At Power House the ushers were adults. Part of their job was to protect the people who were dancing in the Spirit. I concluded that dancing was probably not a regular occurrence here and decided to restrain it should it occur.
I was not prepared, however, for the fact that all of my recent contact with Amma made that unconscious part of me much more accessible. The minute the music started, my body began to dance. While I probably could have shut it down, the energy was so strong I wasn’t sure about that. I decided to let it come. Later, my friend said people looked at her, concerned that I was okay. She just stood there helplessly indicating I was fine.
The energy became stronger than my body could keep up with, so I dropped into a position of prostration, i.e. bowing down with my forehead to floor. The energy inside of me began to calm down.
While I had no doubt that my dancing in that church was acceptable and that the congregation would probably enjoy telling the story of the day the white girl danced in their church for years, part of me was embarrassed. I was once told that the difference between shock and embarrassment is that shock drains life force energy whereas embarrassment may enhance it. A person experiencing shock turns white and “death-like.” With embarrassment, the fear is joined by a bit of pleasure. Instead of turning white, the person experiencing embarrassment turns red from the increase in blood-flow. My experience at the Harlem church was definitely embarrassment not shock. I felt full of life!
At the end of the service, the minister, with a smile on his face, said, “We told her to have a good time, and she did!” I have relished that memory for years.
As I was writing this post, “Hold My Mule” by Shirley Caesar came to mind. The recording starts with a story and turns into song. I have used it in many workshops over the years and was delighted to find it on YouTube. I think it is a good example of being fierce of heart so will use it to end my post!