“…our normal waking consciousness…is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.”

William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902


And without so much as a by-your-leave, you lost yourself. You were tripping on acid or DMT or mushrooms. You took the red pill. You were lying on your back on a summer’s day making clouds disappear. On a winter’s night breathing in a million stars. Making love. A forest walk. You nearly died. Meditating, praying, chanting. You were on a train to nowhere. You heard your name spoken aloud in an empty room.

You went away. No self. Void. The abyss. Nothing and everything. Alone. Connected to everything. Lost. Found. Home.

It lasted for a second. An hour. A month.

“I’m enlightened and you’re not.” (Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. Barry Evans)

Back in the world (not-quite-as-real world). What was that? What happened? You find words, but they’re empty, inadequate. The immensity remains. You’re gobsmacked by the unlikeliness of your existence, of any existence. You’re humbled. You’re exalted.

You interpret, according to your faith, upbringing, life experience: anoxia; Jesus spoke; you were God; you awoke to your Buddha nature; you tasted enlightenment; the veil parted; your neurons fired in synchrony; you had a mini-stroke; you grokked eternity; it was only dust in the wind.

You’re terrified, neurotic. You’re going mad. You’re saner than you’ve ever been. You’re elated, enraptured by the glimpse of reality. You speak of it to no one. You tell everyone. You deny it. You forget about it. You write a book, give a TED talk. You’re greedy for more. You devote your life to The Quest. You stop searching. You embellish in the retelling. You minimize. Life is meaningful. Life is worthless.

You read William James, Jill Bolte Taylor, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi, Ram Das, Saint Teresa, Mark Eppstein, Toni Packer, Peter Matthiessen, Little Flower, Joan Tollifson, Eckhart Tolle. You research the Marsh Chapel (Good Friday) Experiment. You re-watch The Matrix, Inception, Fight Club, Brazil. You check out the local zendo, church, temple, bar.

Death is no longer terrifying. Death now haunts you, closer with each breath. You’re numbed into inaction. You live in the Now. Life is no longer “a drag from numbered stone to numbered stone.” You’re electrified into making every moment count, no more squandering. You drink, you fast, you binge, you pop pills, you quit your job. Money is just green paper. You’re greedy for wealth. You resolve to be kinder, to cut people slack, to give thanks.

Nothing is ever the same.