Episode 11 :: Enlightenment Experiences: Validity and Usefulness

| May 6, 2010 | 0 Comments

Will Davidson

Self Dropped Away? Awesome! So Now What?

Many people have experiences that we would commonly call “spiritual”, every day. They feel a deep connectedness as self drops away, and there is nothing between them and their direct involvement of the processes of life. A tremendous joy arises, incomparable to any previous feeling they’ve had. And this rapture not only lasts, but gives energy to the event’s positive impact on their life. They feel, and outward observers often comment, “transformed.”

But are these experiences real? Is the person actually connected to all things, or are their perceptions misleading? These questions become even more complicated as people attribute causes to the event from a particular view they have about life. We are utterly convinced, and no one can tell us differently, that we saw God, were touched by an angel, or experienced enlightenment.

Interestingly enough, our explanations invariably match what’s in our minds. Hindus don’t see Jesus, and Baptists aren’t visited by G’nesh! What we believe to be so, may not be so. But that doesn’t mean these experiences can’t be of positive benefit, as we’ll see in our talk with Will Davidson…

So, you had an experience. You’re religious, so you fit that experience within the context of your world view, and it positively impacts your life and your interactions with others.

So, you had an experience. You’re secular, so you fit that experience within the context of your world view, and it positively impacts your life and your interactions with others.

I’m sensing a theme, here. The fact is, we’re all people (well, except for that one guy, the one on the left, there. I’m not too sure about him). And as people, we’re built essentially the same way. We have different specific wiring and chemistry, and we have layers of social and cultural indoctrination on top of it, but we all work pretty much alike.

Whatever explanation one chooses to put to them, these experiences are impactful on a person. They make a difference, as people interact more positively with those around them. We can call it a spiritual awakening, or a psychological event — the label isn’t important. It’s what we do with it that gives it practical, tangible use, and personal meaning.

Like many of you listening, I’m an atheist. And I’m secular. But, I’m not anti-religious. I’m not going to discount an entire framework because parts are culturally irrelevant or wrong for modern society, or because people in that framework aren’t behaving as they’re supposed to. Neither am I going to buy into all aspects of that framework; each part of it is going to get critically evaluated, and what’s of value stays, and what isn’t, goes. I have a practice of meditation that’s guided by early buddhist thought, not because I’m dripping with faith in a dogma, but because it works. It’s helped me, personally, change for the better.

It’s a balance, between finding what is useful, and what is not. That’s what our critical thinking is for — neither to discount, nor to blindly accept. We all do it! So, changing that — what works for you?

:: Discuss this episode ::

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Music for This Episode

Ajikan

Chikuzen Shakuhachi Series

The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from the Chikuzen Shakuhachi Series, Volume 1, courtesy of Tai Hei Shakuhachi. The tracks used in this episode are:

  • Track 2 :: Shika no Tone
  • Track 6 :: Esashi Oiwake

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Category: The Secular Buddhist Podcast

Ted Meissner

About the Author ()

Ted Meissner is the host of the podcast Present Moment: Mindfulness Practice and Science. He has been a meditator since the early 90’s, has been interviewed for Books and Ideas, Mindful Lives, and The Whole Leader podcasts, spoken about mindfulness with various groups including Harvard Humanist Hub, and has written for Elephant Journal and The International Journal of Whole Person Care. He is the Executive Director of the Secular Buddhist Association, host of the SBA’s official podcast The Secular Buddhist, and is on the Advisory Board for the Spiritual Naturalist Society. Ted’s background is in the Zen and Theravada traditions, he is a regular speaker on interfaith panel discussions, and is interested in examining the evolution of contemplative practice in contemporary culture. Ted teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care & Society, where he is the Manager of Online Programming and Community Development.

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