Recently I was in Bali offering a silent retreat in the middle of Bali's Shangri-la like rice fields and special spirituality. The Balinese have a spirituality that is full of heart. It begins with recognizing emptiness and continues in daily offering, offering everything in the heart, everything in life. People from all over the world recognize and feel their special culture, their unique being. Bali is such a vibrant island of incredible life and joy!
During our retreat, a member of our group developed a fever. As her body dragged her down, she realized how naked and vulnerable life is. Suddenly she felt and looked within to see an opening in her heart. A small opening was becoming larger and larger as she drew closer to it. As her awareness went into the opening, she found an ever expanding vastness. Before she knew it, she was in this wordless expanse of brilliant light. It was more bright than bright, incredibly bright. And all the light was pure, more pure than pure. All she could say is, "There was so much light! I was not observing this light. I was this light In these moments or minutes,I have no idea how long it continued, I knew this vast universe of light is who I am. There is nothing else. I am all this endless, infinite brilliant light!"
She reported there was no life review. She was not dead. She had taken no medication. She was not hallucinating. She was her normal self. She says, "My body just had a fever while being on retreat in a foreign country which I now believe brought me to this experience. There were no angelic or other beings. Yet I know I was on the other side and the other side is in my heart. The other side for all of us is not some distant place but within our hearts."
As she slowly came back to her body, she realized how heavy, thick, distant is her normal mental world from the light world that she just left. Deep inside she was still in this vast light. Her true being was so alive and filling her. As her fever slowly went away, all she could say is how very different the normal daily world is from the true world, from eternity inside. Meanwhile, the experience continued. Inside is this other world, all this light. This realm in her heart is so complete, intimate. There is no separateness.
In her many years of meditation she has had experiences of a greater reality within and around her. "But I have never been so completely absorbed, gone, taken into the light," she explained. "There was no part of me outside or separate. I was only expanding light. And the moments, minutes, seemingly endless time was expanding forever in greater light."
Fever gone, self back but she said, "I am not really back. Nearly every moment this light is still in my awareness as I also find my thoughts, feelings, and personality as before." She began wondering how does she and the so many, many others who have had similar experiences live in both worlds? She said flatly, "To be honest, nothing seems important in this world as it sits next to all the light." Desires change, worries change, the present moment is everything, she shares. We discuss psychology, most meditation, religion, and of course politics. "Its all is so primitive, so far removed from the light of our heart", she is shaking her head in disbelief. "The world is full of nonsense. Beginning with the debate whether there is life after death there is so much nonsense." We agreed, our normal mental culture is so separate from our hearts. No wonder we have these debates and entertain ourselves with so much distraction. As a culture we are so separate from the light.
For days, she sat and remained with her experience. What does make sense? The simple presence of life itself spoke to her. Partner, children, the vulnerability of this world deeply touches her. She mused, "It's amazing this world functions as well as it does being so distant from who we really are, from all the light." Success, goals, effort for anything other then experiencing the light of the heart is of really no value to her at least in these days. In Bali, the people are daily offering everything. They recognize their emptiness and offer again and again their hearts. You can tell by their inner peace they know this light. Children are held and do not touch the ground for their first six months. The dead are not suddenly ignored or tried to be forgotten as in our culture. The dead are appreciated, fed, dressed, loved. The ancestors, the other side is intimate with all of life. The other side, being spiritually awakened is alive everyday. She could relate to this!
After being so thoroughly in the light, she reported feeling her life is on borrowed time. "I may be here for days or another twenty years. Life is a gift but it is a much greater gift as I spend time each day remembering, being, absorbing this light." We discussed how amazing it is to be so human and so divine. She shared, "My heart goes out to the many many people in all walks of life who are knowingly carrying this great light inside.They are so alive in their hearts. And who sees them? Who appreciates them?" Yes, we agree, many people who know the great intimacy of the other side, who have been spiritually awakened, have no-one to talk to, no-one to help them grow in the intimacy of so much light.
Her heart in all its humanness embraces emptiness now, she says. Her spiritual practice is remembering emptiness and offering. "There is so much. To be each day in all of life's vastness, the vastness of light is a lot. I imagine a world where children, the ill, elderly, everyone is encouraged to find and enjoy the vast light, the brilliance in their own heart." She wonders out loud, "Can we feel the clarity and understanding, the humility, the love?" I could see her trying the best she can, to be in this world and let her awareness be free, free in the sheer brilliance of what she has found inside.
Leaving Bali and the magical beauty, we were each soaked, drenched in the love, the tropical blessings. How do we return and live in a culture that does not believe? Retreat, silence of the heart, taking time to be more and do less were listed important by group. Each of us are called to emptiness and to grow a Bali heart we teased one another. A Bali heart? This gives each of us pause, purpose, possibilities as we imagine our continued journey, our journey into our true heart.