A Yogi’s Wake-Up Call
Unlike the rising sun, the dawning of spiritual awareness is not necessarily experienced as a gradual process. Undoubtedly connections are being made below the level of consciousness long before the emergence of a newly awakened self. Nevertheless, the first conscious spiritual forays often contain an element of profound surprise. The whip-like electric crack of sudden understanding can stimulate all manner of extra-ordinary perceptions, ranging from inchoate light and thundering silence to deeply heard guidance and saintly visions. It is important to be on guard against one’s own overactive or wishful imagination, but a true epiphany is one of those “you know it when you have it” experiences that marks an unmistakable change or turning point.
Such phenomena may not be entirely welcome, as typified by the story of Krishna’s childhood penchant for cheese. Imagine Krishna’s adoptive mother chasing her naughty toddler who has run from her after stuffing his mouth with the cheese he loves so much. Fearful the child will choke, the moment she catches him, she pries his mouth open to remove the cheese. Instead, she gets a profound surprise: within the mouth of the baby god she sees the endless cosmos, world upon world, universe upon universe. Overwhelmed, she prostrates herself and begs Krishna to become her little boy once again.
However fully we embrace our initial spiritual experiences, unless we are very unusual beings indeed, we tend to revert back to mundane reality. This can be disappointing, especially when no amount of pranayama or meditation can reproduce those dramatic experiences. But consider the birth of a child: when it emerges it is slapped—surprised!—to produce the first in-breath. Once it is breathing, do we continue to spank the infant? Likewise, it seems natural that the initial shock of awakening fades, to be replaced by gentler, more subtle experiences.
It may be useful to consider the opinion of some wisdom-scholars that the purpose of such exalted experiences is direct communication of how higher levels of consciousness operate or to accustom the recipient to new vibratory levels. Nevertheless, the important work remains to discover the higher purpose for ourselves, the purpose to which we can put them in our lives. This process begins when, rather than grasp greedily at the platter of possible phenomenal experiences, we mature as yogis and learn to receive whatever is placed on our plate—the present moment—with gratitude.