Mark Whitwell on How to Integrate a Mystical Experience

Spiritual practice is based upon the recognition that what there is is the great Power of the Cosmos — that which some cultures called God, Allah, Yahweh, the Divine, Source Reality, Truth. There is that only, God only, arising now and every one and every thing. This recognition has been expressed in all times and all geographies by countless realizers, known and unknown: men and women, artists, yogis, musicians and laypeople.

It was Ramanuja of the 10th century, a figure like Christ or the Buddha, who said that all tangible conditions of the world are a shesha of God (a spilling over into form). That there is no separation between the Source and the Seen. And it was J. Krishnamurti, one of the 20th century’s most influential spiritual teachers, who summarised the matter with the statement: “Truth is a pathless land” — meaning there is no path to Truth, meaning you are here now.

So when it comes down to it there is no requirement for any experience whatsoever. Truth is not an experience. Truth is the condition in which everything and everyone is arising, prior to experience, prior to thought. You do not need to find Truth. You can relax.

For many people however, experiences do arise where they suddenly see the fact of our human situation. In a flash of insight, spirit comes in — inspiration. It may arise in the company of a beloved teacher, on a nature walk, during childbirth, or with a loved one who is dying. It may come for no apparent reason at all. You simply see the beauty, the infinity of existence, the deathlessness. You see that you are identical to that beauty. It hits you like a tonne of bricks that there is Source Reality only.

Following an experience of clarity however, the next thing that is seen and understood is that there is some reflexive, thought-based patterning in our minds. And this patterning seems to obstructing our enjoyment of the unity that we know to be the fundamental situation. We see that the usual social mind that presumes separation is still there, and there is pain in the system based upon that imagined separation. It can be a little disappointing, even despairing, to feel the social mind droning on, despite the Radiance.

According to the wisdom traditions of humanity, an inspirational experience is there to remind us of that which is always, already the case — the Great Power of the Cosmos. It’s meant to be a one-time thing. What’s important is not so much the experience itself, but how we respond to the experience. At this point, having been inspired, what you can do is set about a sincere, daily yoga practice of yielding the body and mind to Source Reality.

Our ancestors worked out in wisdom culture that movement coupled with breath, in precise ways, had the effect of linking the mind to the whole body — and the whole body is the substance of existingness itself, the absolute condition. Asana practice is a positive pattern of redirecting the mind so that it is in acknowledgement of Reality Itself, rather than dissociation from it.

Yoga was given as a compassionate gesture by realizers within yogic culture to those whose minds were still bound in the presumption of being separate from the Truth. They were given in the context of a guru-shirsya relationship so the student could actualize in their own form the reality communication of their teacher. Krishnamacharya would say that if we don’t have the practical means to respond then our inspiration can make matters worse.

So following a religious experience, or any mind-blowing experience, we simply do our daily vinyasa. We are unconcerned about the oscillating contents of the mind — whether we feel blissful or terrible, having a good or a bad day. We simply hold the understanding that what there is is Reality Itself (God only) and we move and breathe in the context of that understanding.

And we have a quiet faith (Sraddha) in the practice. We know that it is doing its work of gradually (or suddenly) reprogramming the mind. We continue to release what we don’t need and patiently yield the not-yet-yielded habit patterns of mind to the Great Power.

  • Join me in the heart of yoga online studio and learn the principles of practice that Krishnamacharya brought forth from wisdom culture.

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Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.