It’s day 10 of a 12-day Bentinho Massaro meditation retreat in Sedona, AZ and I had been feeling like a high school student in a doctorate level class. The other 150 attendees seem far more advanced than I in their meditation practice and connections to universal energies. The retreat has been fantastic and I’ve learned a ton, but I haven’t had any big breakthroughs in my practice.
So today I smoked a little weed at the Boynton Vortex and had the following amazing experience. The vortexes around Sedona, AZ were always energetic fiction to me. People say they can feel an energy there, but I never could.
Now I know what they’re talking about. I felt the energy. It’s real. The more I meditate and am in the presence of deep meditators and energetic people, my sensitivity to the energies of the universe deepens.
At the trailhead before beginning the hike, a guy named Johnny introduced himself and told my friends and I a little about the vortex. He told us where to go and described the two poles of the vortex (masculine & feminine) and said we could find the balance point between the two rock spires.
After taking a hit on my pipe, I sat in a comfortable space next to the trail on the way to the vortex. As I sat there some other people were hiking by and saw me. I was relaxed and beginning to meditate a bit. I was feeling great, relaxed and enjoying the beautiful landscape.
Then the heart-giver guy came by. I had heard about him and he must be an enlightened soul. He takes local rocks and chips them away so they look heart-shaped. He bestows them with positive energy and then he walks the trail each morning and gives them away to people. He has a spiel that he gives to everyone and since I heard it 3 times (twice spoken to people within earshot and once directly to me) I learned that he personalizes it for each person. He could see that I was doing awesome and bounded down the trail after our interaction saying “It’s a GOOD day!”.
I cradled the heart rock in my hands and continued to meditate right next to the trail. I was feeling great. Totally relaxed.
There was a light (the sun?) up a bit above eye level and my headed wanted to rise and gaze (eyes closed) into it. As my head raised, the light stayed just ahead of it so I kept following the light until my head had fallen all the way back and my mouth gaped wide open. My head had wanted to do that previous days during the retreat in our formal group meditations, but I had resisted the urge because I didn’t want to look like an idiot.
But this time I allowed myself to let go and my head to follow the light and fall all the way back with mouth open to the sky. People were walking by but I didn’t care. I overcame the fear of looking weird which held me back in the past.
While sitting there with head back and mouth agape, black flies suddenly appeared around me. Just a few of them, but they landed on my face and one started walking toward my mouth.
Did they think I was a flower?
I quickly realized what was happening and It felt like a test. I was completely relaxed and calm. Confident.
So when one of them walked into my mouth I let it happen. Fairly quickly it buzzed away, bumping up against my tongue and the roof of my open mouth before escaping. I’m no Venus Flytrap but I just willingly let a fly walk into my open mouth!
The flies felt like my guides to the spiritual realm.
When I fell deeper into pure relaxation they would appear. First around my hands and then to my mouth and nose. When I got distracted they flew away. This happened multiple times.
I realized that since experienced yogis/meditators sit in a particular manner, that perhaps I should do it that way. I could control my body and still allow my mind to be free. I didn’t have to allow my head to fall back and mouth to open wide.
So I sat in traditional meditation pose, mouth closed, fingers and arms forming circles in front of me like I learned earlier this year while spending three nights at a Zen monastery outside of Kyoto, Japan. While in this position, the flies returned, indicating to me that I was doing it right.
Holding my breath I seemed to go deeper. I felt one of the flies walk up into my nose. It startled me and I flinched and blew it out. But it made me think that maybe I was just supposed to allow a fly to walk into each nostril and trust that everything would be fine. So I sat with that some more.
But then I remembered the first words of every beginner meditation class: focus on your breath.
Of course! The ancient teachings!
I can be in control of my body, have a relaxed minimal breath AND have the awakening experience at the same time. There was no need to hold my breath.
Immediately I felt energy flow through the circle of my hands/fingers and also the bigger circle made by my arms. It was as if I had just completed the circuit.
My body is an antenna!
This is why they sit like that!
After sitting like this for a bit longer I was struck with laughing fits at realizing the complete perfection of each moment. No matter how I looked back in time, it was clear that everything that happened was part of leading me to this exact moment. This experience. It reminded me of the feeling I had in Pai, Thailand earlier this year.
I would come back from each fit of laughter and try to control the energy, to sit still. The laughter was phenomenal but I knew there was something deeper. I got twitches in my legs or muscle spasms in a hip and used them as indicators to better align my body antenna.
I couldn’t wait to tell people about my experience! (a recurring theme of mine as a mostly lone wolf for the past many years)
So I decided to go find my friends and tell them.
I struggled to stand up. My body was out of whack with gravity and my legs were wobbly. As I slowly arose I noticed that two of my new housemate friends were sitting behind me making a power triangle around this old twisted juniper tree, under which I sat. I hadn’t known they were there.
It felt like I was seated at the throne of the vortex! My friends were holding energetic space for me and I was immensely grateful for their assistance.
I quickly sat back down so the 3 of us could resonate together. Align our antennae.
I sat with mouth closed, straight back, hands in circle and the flies came back to my mouth. They hung out on my lips and the test was continuing. My fly guides were showing me the next step. I was prepared to allow them into my nostrils, but since I now had a slow even breath they didn’t want to go up there anymore. I think they only went up when I was holding my breath, perhaps telling me I shouldn’t do that.
They loved my lips, however. Two flies were walking on the lips of my closed mouth, but I was aware that we are all just energy. Everything is just energy. I allowed the reality of form to dissolve into energy waves. I disappeared and the flies disappeared, replaced by slight sensations and energetic waves. The flies and my lips both dissolved in to nothingness energy. They were the same.
Then time felt like it didn’t exist…
I sat for awhile longer watching the light and being beckoned to go beyond the curtain. There was some sort of curtain to look behind. What was behind the light? Who was holding the flashlight? Bentinho had taught us to go deeper, to have faith and dive in.
But I was afraid. What if I went crazy? What if I could never relate to people in the same way again? Would the Kirk that I know completely disappear?
Bentinho taught us to have faith. That there was nothing to be afraid of. That it is far better on the other side — all love and light. Other people in the retreat have spoke about their experience and they’re all fine.
I tried to have faith to go behind the curtain, but wasn’t getting there. But it felt like it is my destiny to go behind the curtain. To realize oneness with the Absolute? I don’t know. But I do know that eventually it will happen. It is my destiny. It felt like it is everyone’s destiny. Eternal love.
I wasn’t really sure where I was on the inner journey map, but allowed myself to be okay without labeling it. I decided to use the remaining retreat to ask questions of more seasoned travelers before going further. It felt like I could open my eyes and walk away and maintain this blissful loving state (but I also knew that these experiences typically come and go over a period of time and continuing practice, that the growth normally occurs slowly).
1) I began sobbing with gratitude when I realized that I am a part of the lineage of Japanese Zen Buddhism. I always was, somehow. We all are. It was so beautiful. Those monks have been meditating for a thousand years, discovering the positioning of the body and hands and welcoming me (all of us) to the club.
2) I realized the beauty of a community of supportive souls that were holding me gently. I didn’t need to fear. Have faith.
3) Back in town a couple hours later, we went to the the Whole Foods and I saw Johnny who had originally welcomed us to the vortex and told us about the energies and rock formations. I said ‘hi’, thanked him, and told him I had an amazing awakening experience. He said he is retired and likes to help out around town. Now he was recycling stuff out of the garbage cans. Maybe he is an enlightened soul who is living a life of simple service to people around Sedona.
Welcome. I'm Kirk and I'm slowly experiencing what I can only describe as a spiritual awakening.
If I try to trace its origins, I might begin around 2012 or 2013 when I meditated for the first time. For a few years I meditated infrequently -- maybe a couple times a week or maybe never for a few months. I never sat for more than 20 minutes.
When I spent six weeks hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014, I became aware of my monkey mind. Being alone and walking day after day introduced me to the scattered, repetitive, and largely unhelpful river of thoughts flowing through my mind.
In an effort to better understand my self and my mind, I attended a 10-day vipassana silent meditation retreat while traveling in Argentina. There I experienced my own chi, or life energy, for the first time.
Just a couple weeks later I attended a week-long ayahuasca retreat in the Amazon jungle outside of Iquitos, Peru. It was my first psychedelic experience and opened further the doors of perception.
I've had two other profound moments of awakening since then.
These are some of my thoughts.
Ram Dass is the legendary former Harvard professor Richard Alpert who was among the first westerners to use psychedelics and travel to India to learn from a true guru.
This podcast is a collection of many of the hundreds of dharma talks he's given since 1969 when he returned from his first trip to India.
Jack has taught meditation internationally since 1974 and is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. The Jack Kornfield Heart Wisdom hour celebrates Jack’s ability to mash up his long established Buddhist practices with many other mystical traditions, revealing the poignancy of life’s predicaments and the path to finding freedom from self-interest, self-judgment and unhappiness.
"We must be the change we wish to see in the world."
- Mahatma Gandhi