Prophecies going back to the 8th Century AD announced that speedy new paths to enlightenment would be developed in the West ‘when iron birds fly and horses have wheels.’ This is a story relating to such a path.
The workshop building was dark, as was the whole centre. Dark because it was night and dark because the electricity had suddenly been cut off. The dim light of a candle gave a soft glow at one end of the room, whilst a large torch facing towards the ceiling helped those present find their whereabouts at the other end of the room, near the door.
28 people filled the workshop space, 23 of them as participants, and 5 as part of the facilitating team. They had all been there for 6 days and 6 nights, working together at expanding their consciousness, light-seekers on the next step of their personal journey of enlightenment. Much had happened during this week. The next day, a Saturday, was going to be the 7th and last day of the retreat.
It was pouring with rain outside. The metal roof amplified the sounds of nature to such an extent that everyone had been silent for a while. Intermittent flashes of lightning gave brief instants of light in the darkened room, followed almost simultaneously by the roar of thunder.
Gabrielle looked around the room, making sure that all present were OK. If it wasn’t for her responsibilities as workshop facilitator, she would have sneaked outside to stand in the rain until she was soaked. She would have liked to take all her clothes off and let water cleanse her of the tension accumulated during this intensive week. She promised herself to do so at the next opportunity.
As it turned out, she didn’t have to wait for long. The very next night, workshop over, she and her partner Michael were back home, and they both sat naked on their terrace, hand in hand, in the midst of another wild mid-summer thunderstorm.
In the workshop room, it was obvious to her that many people were enjoying the storm as much as she did. She felt stimulated, expanded, every cell in her body responding to the extra electrical charge in the air. She noticed that others breathed deeply, revelling in the smell of wet earth that wafted in through the open doors and windows. Looking out, many marvelled at the on-going show of lightning flashes. Others sat quietly with their eyes closed, allowing thunder to reverberate in their head, pushing aside all other thoughts.
Despite the darkness of the room, Gabrielle also noticed a couple of fearful looking faces.
“This storm gives us all a perfect opportunity to continue on our personal journey of self-discovery”, she thought. “To live fully in the present moment; to embrace aspects of ourselves that we haven’t known or accepted before. Maybe even to step outside of our ordinary mind and into our true nature, the Self.” Those were her intentions for the retreat. She knew though that many participants had other personal agendas: to work on a particular relationship, to access psychic powers, to release an addiction, to gain more self-confidence, even to lose weight. She didn’t mind personal agendas. They usually got fulfilled anyway, as a by-product of deeper transformative experiences. Although the atmosphere in the room was informal, some powerful events were unfolding. For two days now, the facilitating team had been extra busy, maintaining a group schedule as well as attending to those individuals who experienced peak states. Some expansions were subtle, hardly noticeable externally, yet very powerful in nature to the person experiencing them, whilst others involved irrepressible physical manifestations.
Gabrielle remembered reading many years ago about the ancient prophecies of Padma Sambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet. Padma Sambhava prophesied in the 8th Century AD that the Dharma – the Buddhist teachings and knowledge of enlightenment – would go to the West “when iron birds fly and horses have wheels.”
These ancient manuscripts also talked about the way enlightenment would spread. At that time of stress and turmoil, they prophesied, spiritual seekers would no longer spend years of withdrawal from the world, as traditionally practised in the East. They would use new methods that matched their accelerated pace of life, methods that could lead them to enlightenment in much quicker ways. Gabrielle had now been involved in this work for close to 15 years, and she had noticed that the pace at which participants experienced profound awakenings was speeding up from year to year. Although tired, she brought her attention back to the room. Anton, one of the participants, was lying on folded blankets at the candle-lit end of the room. With two facilitators and a dozen or so participants sitting around him, he had been in bliss for nearly an hour. Eyes closed, tears slowly rolling down his face, he was in ecstasy.
Michael, one of the facilitators attending to him, kept encouraging him to put words to his experience so he would have a better chance of consciously remembering its many aspects. He also helped him anchor feelings in his body so he could kinaesthetically re-access them later.
In-between long silences, Anton sometimes managed to do so. At other times, his consciousness travelled into dimensions of Light that left him speechless. He became part of a vast Universe of love and knowledge, beyond consensual human experience, beyond words.
It was very hard for him to describe the unexplainable. What he was experiencing was timeless, unbounded, ineffable, beyond language. Michael kept encouraging Anton to anchor his bliss in every way possible, however inadequate and limiting this process was.
Michael knew that profound spiritual experiences, unless anchored into bodily consciousness, dissolve very quickly when the ego resumes its position, just like most dreams disappear from the conscious mind as soon as we wake up and move our limbs.
Self-realisation is the result of peak experiences that are brought back and integrated into everyday life. And this is what they were aiming at – a profound and lasting transformation. A sustainable higher state of consciousness. Self-actualisation. Individuation.
“It’s so beautiful…” Anton kept saying. “It’s just so beautiful… I love you all so much… Everything is so perfect…”
Tears of joy rolled down towards his ears. A long silence followed, regularly interrupted by the distant roar of thunder.
“I am perfect… I am God” he whispered.
“Say it again, say it louder” said the facilitator.
“Yes, I’m God… I am God… I AM GOD…”
Anton was now sobbing uncontrollably. “Breathe it in, and breathe it out. Embody your knowingness… Anchor it in every cell of your body.”
At some stage Anton started laughing. A huge belly laughter that shook his whole body. “Oh”, he finally said “Life is so funny… We create so many dramas just to entertain ourselves, and then we complain about them… We blame others… It’s an illusion. Everything is an illusion. Dramas are ego’s way of maintaining the illusion of separateness…”
He laughed so hard he could hardly talk. His mirth was irresistibly contagious.
“We’re all one, and we don’t even remember it… We’ve forgotten it! I had forgotten it! It’s so funny!”
His face wet with tears, he roared with laughter. Many of those present also started to laugh. Yes, they could relate to the stupidity, the futility of so many of their own dramas. The unnecessary pain of feeling separate, different, disconnected. Anton, in his expanded state of awareness, helped them remember what they too had forgotten. That we are one and we don’t need dramas to feel connected.
“We are one…” he kept saying. A long silence followed. Thunder was getting louder.
“Tell me who you are”, the facilitator said to him in a whisper.
“I am love… Love… Infinite Love… That’s who I am… that’s what I am…” Tears kept coming, creating little pools of water over his closed eyelids near his nose. Michael now and then silently wiped them off, careful to not disturb him unnecessarily.
“I’m Love, Love for all, Love for me… Love for the Earth… And you… and you… and you… and you… ”
He had opened his eyes and was now sharing his gift of love with those sitting around him. The pure energy that was oozing from his eyes, from every cell of his reclining body was almost palpable to those present. Most could feel its vibration resonating within themselves. Some found so much love too confronting and left the space. Others embraced it.
He closed his eyes again.
His expansion in consciousness became like the head bird in a migrating flock. It opened the way for those who dared to follow him. Higher and higher they went together, a small group of spiritual pilgrims sitting together in the midst of a great thunderstorm. For many, their silent inner journey took them to high places. Inner realms of light, places of love where our connection is visible, palpable, audible. Where we know who we are beyond what our ego believes to be true.
Some had tears of joy rolling down their smooth faces, feeling happy, complete, fulfilled.
Suddenly, thunder boomed overhead so loudly that they all jumped, brutally brought back to physical reality. The whole building shook under the violence of combined wind, rain and sound. At this point, Anton suddenly raised his right arm, pointing his index finger towards the sky.
“I AM THAT!” he shouted. “I am that… THAT I AM!”
For him and those around him it was a fitting conclusion to a week of ‘Who am I?’ contemplation. They all laughed.
He closed his eyes again and plunged back into bliss. Yes, he was that. Anton the Man, as well as God, Lightning, Thunder, Love, Earth, Bird, All there is…
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