Gabrielle was attending a dream analysis workshop and was about to answer a probing question the facilitator had just asked her. Slowly she took a deep breath and decided she would trust him. She knew he was both an initiated shaman and a Jungian analyst. Moreover, she liked him. His aura and words were congruent. They both shone with compassion and integrity.
For the first time, she felt safe enough to voice publicly one of the most disturbing aspects of the spiritual crisis she had been experiencing for several months.
“Yes, death is calling me…” she said. “Yet, I feel so alive, simultaneously joyful and crazy, powerful and out of control. Life has never been this exciting…” Eyes clear, her voice now lower, Gabrielle addressed the facilitator directly. “Such a paradox… I love life and want death. Am I going mad?”
He didn’t answer. Slowly she continued. “It’s so easy… All I have to do is to say yes. Yes to re-entering Eternity. Merging with Infinity. Letting go of my body and going back to the Light…” She paused again.
“I’m talking of natural death, not suicide. Just as I chose to be born in a human body I can choose to leave it now. Different door, same process. No illness or violence… Do you understand what I mean?” He signalled her to continue. “I feel like a tourist in life. I don’t belong here any longer… Death and eternal light are the same thing… and I just want to go home – and stay in eternal light for good…”
The facilitator nodded his head. He was listening intently and Gabrielle realised how important it was for her to share her existential dilemma with someone who could understand it. To be or not to be. To remain physically alive or to gently leave her body during a deep meditation. To yogis, this conscious exit is known as mahasamadhi. Yet doctors would call it a ‘cardiac arrest’ or maybe ‘heart failure’. Little would they know that she had chosen to do so!
At that very second, a door facing Gabrielle opened with such force that most other workshop participants jumped. Many turned around to see who was intruding so rudely into their space. Silence followed because no one was there.
The facilitator winked at Gabrielle and they both laughed. “Yes”, he said. “The door is obviously open for you, and you have the choice to stay or to go.”
The door remained open. It led to a large classroom full of desks but devoid of students or teacher. No draught there either. It was the middle of winter and all external doors and windows were closed.
“You’ve heard of spiritual initiations, haven’t you?” the therapist continued.
“Yes, but I need to learn a lot more about this crazy part of the journey, because it’s such rough sailing. The peaks and troughs test my sanity big time.”
For the past few months, Gabrielle had experienced a range of phenomena that her rational mind couldn’t explain. The most common of these phenomena related to visions and revelations. She regularly saw or felt ‘things’ that no one else could validate. Where did the people, gods and demons who visited her in meditation come from? She also often heard messages of wisdom that didn’t seem to be related to either her thoughts or external circumstances. Who was speaking to her?
Her inner journeys were so exciting that she slowly became addicted to travelling through time and space. Revisiting past lives brought some clarity to current situations, but these experiences were also deeply disturbing to her mind. Was she imagining all these stories? Did other people also live in two dimensions at once? How could she be an ordinary 20th Century woman living in Australia while simultaneously experiencing herself in other bodies, countries, centuries/millennia and circumstances?
‘Am I going mad?’ became a question Gabrielle jokingly asked herself more and more often.
Mystical experiences came hand in hand with various unsettling physical symptoms. Luckily she knew of kundalini and didn’t panic. Her body felt ‘switched on’, as if she were plugged into a source of infinite energy that both consumed and nourished her. Especially disturbing was the inner light that constantly burnt brightly behind her eyelids, whether they were open or closed. Physical vibrations of variable intensity also disturbed her sleep from time to time, as did unexplainable sound phenomena.
‘I’m literally seeing a light in my brain and vibrating it through various physical organs – hope my nervous system can survive the ride’, she thought now and then, but she didn’t share her concerns with anyone, least of all a medical doctor.
‘All is well’, she decided. ‘This sacred journey is between God and I, and I’ll meet all the right people at the right time. They’ll tell me what I need to know… In the meantime, I won’t worry my family.’
After a while, her body couldn’t tolerate alcohol and meat any longer. It didn’t matter to her and she hardly noticed that her social life was slowly grinding to a halt. By the time she attended the dream analysis workshop, she had lost interest in everything she had previously enjoyed: human company, gossip, sex, work, movies, fashionable clothes, exotic foods, restaurants, shopping…
She lived on her own and worked just enough to make ends meet. The rest of the time, she focused on the now. No past, no future. Just now. She spent so much time in total bliss that she looked good. So no one noticed that her inner experiences had taken her to a very slippery path along the spiritual journey.
One night, she had a dream that led her to the workshop she was now attending. And here she was, finally talking of her death wish and facing the symbolically opened classroom door.
“Initiations are events that mark a transition from an old to a new level of attainment”, explained the facilitator. “In most cases, they are entry points into a higher level of functioning characterised by more evolved attitudes and actions.
“They can take place in various ways, from gross to very subtle. Here are some examples:
- Brutal rituals of ‘bastardisation’ linked to some army or police organisations – nothing very evolved about those
- Entry rituals into secret societies
- Traditional shamanic rites of passage
- Familial and/or religious ceremonies such as baptisms, bar mitzvahs, confirmations, weddings and funerals
- Energetic transmission of knowledge from a master to a student
- And ultimately, inner experiences of a spiritual nature that mark a new stage of growth.
“Let us focus on this last category, that of spontaneous spiritual initiations. As you know, some are blissful while others can be perceived as highly distressing. Yet they all lead to a greater ability to love.
“Since life is an ongoing process of growth, from conception to death, all of us evolve, often in non-linear ways. We experience an event that pushes us out of our comfort zone, we struggle for a while, grow and eventually adjust physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually at a higher level. We then stay there for a few months, a few years or a lifetime, slowly integrating the previous changes. And when we’re ready for more growth, at soul level we orchestrate a new initiation.
“The more quickly we evolve, the more initiations we experience in a lifetime. And yes, sometimes we regress before taking another leap forward.
“Gabrielle you are now facing the initiation of a spiritual teacher. Will you choose death or compassion? Up to you. You can die, or you can continue to grow and eventually help others on the spiritual path. You will then be able to shine a light that will make others’ journey easier.
“I want you to remember what you came here to do. Have you really gone as far as you can possibly go in this lifetime? Have you completed your soul’s journey at this time in history?”
At these words, Gabrielle’s eyes filled with tears. She knew that she wasn’t done. She had more, much more, to achieve in this lifetime.
And then a few days later, without warning, her 25 year old daughter arrived on her doorstep at 2am and came back to live with her. Gabrielle’s life shifted direction once more. Sharing her house with the daughter she loved helped her find her footing on this planet again. From one day to the next she started to feel more grounded. Together they ate differently, more protein, heavier foods. Now and then they would open a bottle of wine, and Gabrielle’s body got slowly used to more than fruit and vegies. She put some weight back on.
They talked, they laughed, they went out.
Within a few months, Gabrielle was fully back in the world. She started to teach meditation. The following year she completed her formal training as a facilitator of enlightenment intensives, and started training as a dance therapist. She then met the man who became her husband and partner in business.
Today, 15 years later, she’s still grateful to the dream therapist who taught her so much in just a few minutes. Yes, the spiritual journey is the most exciting of all adventures.
And as Socrates once said, our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness, provided the madness is given us by divine gift.
Marlyse Carroll (alias Gabrielle) is a principal of the Inner Peace Institute for Wellbeing in Melbourne. As a meditation teacher, writer and speaker, she shares her passion for the often misunderstood aspects of spiritual emergence. Her book ‘Am I Going Mad? The Unsettling phenomena of Spiritual Emergency’ has been described by Dr John Demartini as ‘a must-read, truly a physiological, psychological and spiritual masterpiece’.
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