So, right from the start, the whole concept sounds pretty arcane. So is much of the content written about mysticism, which seems always to be couched in religious and/or academic jargon.
It's one thing to try to fathom what they're saying; it's another just to decide which mysticism we're talking about. There's religious mysticism, philosophical mysticism, practical mysticism, mysticism by faith, era, geographic origin...even country. You might think they were all competing to see who can make life's ultimate meaning the most unfathomable.
Most young children I've ever observed have struck me as being, without even trying, pretty successful little mystics.
BORN THAT WAYSo what is mysticism in terms the average person might understand? I like the definition I found at NewAdvent.org, the largest Catholic site on the Web: "...a religious tendency and desire of the human soul towards an intimate union with the Divinity." With the exception, perhaps, of the word "religious," that description doesn't seem all that unapproachable.
One dictionary definition calls mysticism: "a belief in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect." Again, not such a hard concept to get your mind around, right? After all, aren't these truths—isn't that union with divinity—something just about everyone would like to know?
Don't let the ascetics cow you. Mysticism is a way of connecting with the universe that each and every one of us (at least those of us with the luxury of being able to think of things other than mere day-to-day survival) can experience through nothing more mysterious than a natural capacity we were born with—our sense of wonder. Come to think of it, most young children I've ever observed have struck me as being, without even trying, pretty successful little mystics.
That meaning, far from being elusive and privileged, invites us to share the same space with it every day, everywhere.
NOT ROCKET SCIENCEMysticism—at least my kind—is nothing more than believing that Nature and life are laced with profound meaning, and that that meaning, far from being elusive and privileged, invites us to share the same space with it every day, everywhere.
The reason this is mystical isn't that you have to spend your entire life in the Himalayas tracking down some reclusive lama, only to have him tell you the answer lies in the question. It's mystical because, at least for us adults, the mind and the spirit have to grow in order to make room for it.
One way I've cultivated my own mystic spirituality is by realizing how much it revolves around Nature. By recognizing that connection, knowing that my "Divinity" is the earth and all its life, I find I can easily tap into that innate curiosity and wonder kids experience so effortlessly when they're in Nature.
Spirituality is no more or less complicated than we wish to make it.
COMFORTABLE AS A FAVORITE CHAIREveryone has a spiritual side. Sure, it can be mysterious, hard to describe, elusive in practice. But, when all's said and done, spirituality is no more or less complicated than we wish to make it. Some people find their meaning in elaborate ritual, others in solitary prayer; some in simple silence, still others in beating their own backs bloody with chains.
I find my ultimate truth and beauty—my "intimate union with the Divinity"—in Nature. I see and feel it all around me, within me and in others with whose paths mine intersects. These natural wonders, while to some nearly as elusive as any religious truth, do not have to be so.
For me, simply being in the presence of those geologic structures and fellow organisms feels like home, as welcoming as family, as comfortable as a favorite chair. Yet they tap into something timeless, something profoundly enriching and empowering. It's a fusion of all those understandings human beings have always hoped to gain through their spiritual experience—truth, beauty, love, hope, understanding, gratitude and, of course, wonder.
THE HARDER YOU TRY…How can you practice this kind of no-nonsense mysticism in your life?
First of all, as I've suggested, realizing your capacity to experience the mystical doesn't take anything that every single one of us wasn't born with. You don't have to be an academic or an ascetic to get it. It's not defined or governed by any particular religious construct; you don't have to be a liberal arts graduate or an NPR listener to fit in; there are no slick New Age buzzwords.
No, in my kind of mysticism, all you have to do is show up, pay attention, expect wonder and not be in a hurry to leave.
Notice I said "expect wonder." If there's one part of this people tend to get hung up on it's this. For this is the aspect of faith. By definition, it can't be proven; you have to take a leap. Skeptics will always be poor candidates for mysticism, just as they are for hypnotism. So, if you want to fall into the trance of mystery, wonder and oneness, you must expect it, be willing to recognize it when you see it, and welcome it into your reality.
Instead of searching for wonder, you simply prepare room for it in your heart and spirit…and then it finds you!
Oh, and there's one more little trick, one that can be tough for some people. The very things many of us have been taught all our lives are the secret to success—hard work, efficiency, control, contacts, competition—are what usually stands in the way of reaching that mystical union with the sacred.
In fact, the harder you try to find it, the less likely you are to do so. So, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, instead of searching for wonder, you simply prepare room for it in your heart and spirit…and then it finds you!
BETTER PLACES TO GOTry it! Make whatever time you can in your day—even if it's only 15 minutes of your lunch hour. Go outdoors and find a place that's fairly quiet and conducive to life—even if that's only your back yard, or under the trees in front of your office building.
Clear your mind of agendas, worries, expectations. In fact, try to turn off your mind. If you can't get rid of the thoughts and emotions, don't worry. Don't fight them; just picture yourself rising above them, observing them kindly, letting them pass as they will. Understand that they are not you. No, in this moment, this tiny slice of your day, you have better, more important places to go.
You must expect it, be willing to recognize it when you see it, and welcome it into your reality.
So what do you say? Are you ready to dig out and reclaim your native mysticism? You can do this!! And please, won't you share your experience with the rest of us?(For more on this subject, see my 4/5/11 post, DEMYSTIFYING MYSTICISM – The Down & Dirty Road to Higher Consciousness here.)