By Niranjan Matanich
I recently watched a documentary on the Grateful Dead. During one of the segments, their sound engineer told a story about going on stage to adjust the microphone. On his way back to his seat, the band started playing the song and it stopped the guy. He was completely caught up in the moment. He was tearing up while retelling this story.
I immediately thought, “he’s describing an experience of the Self.” I also thought about how every moment could be like this. And, even though he was having this moment, all was accomplished: the microphone was adjusted and the song was being recorded. It was on their live album, Europe 72.
I previously thought you can only have profound spiritual experiences while you are doing a dedicated spiritual practice like chanting, meditating, japa, arati, etc. But you can and do have profound experiences, probably a lot more than you think. You may not recognize what’s really happening, that this is an experience of the Self, an experience of your own Divinity. Just like the guy who was caught up in the song, you get caught up in those moments, maybe when you eat something good, or you see scenery that is breath-taking, or maybe it’s music. We all have these experiences.
Swami Nirmalananda says, “This is an experience of God. Nobody likes to use the ‘G-word’ any more, but God is always present, whether you’re paying attention or not. When you experience God on the inside, yoga calls it ‘Self.’ But your experience of God is always on the inside! Even if you look for God outside, your experience of God is inside. So yoga says, look inside. And when you find God inside, you’ll discover who you are. It happens all the time. God’s available all the time.”
We all have these experiences. When you realize that you are having a profound spiritual experience, it is even more amazing. The very act of recognition brings a special amazement.
I find that these moments are even more exceptional than things I have experienced in meditation. But that’s not surprising. We are meant to experience our own Divinity in the midst of our lives. That is what drew me to the Kashmiri Shaivite tradition. You don’t have to go to a cave, you don’t have to renounce all your belongings, you don’t have to leave your spouse, your kids, your job, none of those things. You can know that you are the Self all the time, in the midst of your life.
The more I have these experiences, the more profound my life becomes, and the more profound the realizations become. A yogic text speaks of this:
vismayo yogabhumika.h — Shiva Sutras 1.12
Yogic realizations are truly amazing.
An experience of the Self is just a shift of awareness away. The more you experience your own Self, the more you will have experiences and the more you will recognize them.
It is promised in the texts that eventually the experience will become permanent. How amazing is that? It’s miraculous.
OM svaroopa svasvabhava namo namah
To your Inherent Divinity again and again I bow.