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Category: Introversion

Why I Chose Mysticism Over Religion

Why I Chose Mysticism over Religion

I’m sure you’ve had mystical experiences, whether it was through yoga, meditation, and fasting; or perhaps even through sex, drugs, or amazing music. You’ve at least accepted that these mystical experiences are valid – yet, perhaps, incredibly wondrous and maybe confusing part of the human experience. Maybe you’ve gained clarity about the experience, or maybe you’ve chalked it up to “just one of those things” and have moved on down the dusty road.

If you’ve never had a mystical experience, then this post won’t make much sense…this blog is mostly for people who are awakening spiritually or already self-identify as spiritually awakened, so there’s no worries here. By the way, I hate the term “spiritual”. It has such a hegemonic feel to it – like those who identify as spiritual are somehow better than those who do not. For the record: I believe everyone is spiritual because everyone and everything is of spirit. All religions point back to an origin or source from whence we emanated. Sure, the details are filtered through varying respective cultural lenses, but this origin is something most religions agree upon.

I chose mysticism over religion for a couple reasons. #1 is it fits my personality: I tend to thrive on my own, thinking for myself, as the sovereign ruler of my space. I love people! Don’t get me wrong. I just love the benefit of my own space more than sharing it unendingly. I’ve had to get to the point where i either plan something for 1-2 hours after a guest arrives, or flat out tell them (in the nicest way possible) that it’s time to go.  #2 is that i had a life-altering experience with religion in my early childhood, a story that merits some discourse:

My Religious Backstory

Growing up in an Orthodox Christian church and school (I was there 1-3 times per week from age 1-4, then 5-7 days a week for the next 6 years), I was inundated with certain beliefs about the world around me, passed down to me from the priests, parents, and teachers. This transfer of information was usually a one way street that lent little room for philosophical discourse or questioning. At age 7, when questioning whether or not my Catholic and Protestant friends could get into heaven, I was told that Orthodox Christianity was the “One True Religion”. I interpreted this to mean that Orthodox Christianity would not allow them into heaven. This sparked massive cognitive dissonance. I am very grateful that my questioning mind and the sovereignty of my mental space, accompanied by a quiet stubbornness, allowed me to formulate my own opinion based on both my emotional and logical beliefs. The main belief here was that any loving sovereign being could not possibly damn an innocent child to hell who had no choice in their religious affiliation.

When I left my parents stewardship at the age of 17, I began to explore different religions. Hinduism was interesting to me because I had recently found yoga, but I couldn’t get past the difference in cultural upbringing. I knew Christianity as I knew it wasn’t for me, and after some soul searching, neither was Hinduism. I was at U.T. Knoxville studying music, and I understood that is was not unusual for a musician – especially a jazz musician – to adopt another culture’s spiritual practices. Still, it felt strange adopting the religious aspects of Hinduism without it being culturally ingrained. I just knew that Orthodox Christianity was about as appealing to me as being force fed carrots and being told it was cookies.

I began practicing yoga for 1-3 hours per day, and got into a very interesting energetic space: I had mystical experiences where I was precient of events, and others where I could bless people with intense divine energy by directing my attention. It was not sustainable, however, because I was still a college student who played in bands, and I was partying too much and not getting enough sleep.

My mystical practices superseded my studies in a way that felt unbalanced. Also I was faced with an unexpected consequence of my yoga practice, this: the body stores energy and emotion, and when that energy and emotion is released through physical practice (yoga, in my case), it can bring this energy and emotion to the surface, sometimes violently. Unless dealt with carefully and gently, these emotions and energies can cause major disruptions in your day-to-day activities. Emotions and energies of unexpressed boundaries and unprecedented rage came to the surface unexpectedly in a way I was underprepared for. In Reiki this is often referred to as a “healing crisis”. About 10-15% of my Reiki clients experience this, so it’s to be expected. Rest, relaxation, water, and being gentle with oneself is the usual routine to navigate a healing crisis. I’m sure you can imagine how a college student would find this difficult!

The Pendulum Swings.

I believe that any extreme discipline is unsustainable unless tempered with a time of un-discipline. Over the last year I’ve learned the value of exercising the discipline to discipline discipline. (I can’t remember whose quote/term this is, but I love it! Google search came up blank, so If you know who first said this, let me know!).

Unless you have chosen the path of the saint, religious or spiritual discipline does you no good if you do not apply the lessons therein to everyday life. The practical. The Taoists call this grounding the “celestial” in the “mundane”. If you self-identify as a being of higher consciousness, your mission is to find out (or create) a way to ground this higher consciousness into the mundane plane of existence. Get over your spiritual bypassing as quickly as possible. I get it – I exercised spiritual bypassing for years because I could not deal with or handle the repercussions of my father’s immaturity or my mother’s covert emotional incest. Sometimes spiritual bypassing is necessary. Just notice if your spiritual practices are getting in the way of basic human kindness and compassion. Just notice, and balance it, please?

The Yogic Perspective.

In the traditional 7 Chakra system there are “Upper” chakras (Throat, Third Eye, Crown) and “Lower” Chakras (Solar Plexus, Sacral, Root). The Heart Chakra is the center. The trap is to value “Upper” Chakras over “Lower” Chakras. Initially, when experiencing the first spiritual awakening through yoga, temperance of the “Lower” chakras is beneficial to rise above and experience the unity and love of the upper chakras, yet do not lose focus of the idea that you are a whole being, worthy of loving all your chakras. In fact, some teachers would say that to truly balance the chakras is to make them disappear entirely.

The Christian Perspective.

If you were raised Christian, you may run into this trap of thinking: The challenge here is that many (not all) Christian sects – and the social constructs thereof – use fear, guilt, and shame to keep people docile and obedient. A.K.A. unquestioning. This has nothing to do with the message of Christ; it has more to do with the conquering rulers such as Emperor Constantine who used Christianity as a social control mechanism.

It’s one thing to have faith in a higher power. It’s one thing to surrender your will to someone whom you love and trust unconditionally. It’s another – very dangerous – thing to surrender your will to a political or dubious religious leader. I’ve always found this difficult due to the mind-numbing environment of that Orthodox Church in Allston, MA. I learned six years after my family relocated to Memphis, TN that the Metropolitan (patriarch) of the Orthodox Church that I grew up in was exposed as a pedophile. I was angry at my parents for blindly following a religion in which I found so many red flags (even in my young age), and expecting me to blindly follow them in kind. Sometimes in life one’s own will to make choices and decisions that go against the grain can be the one thing that keeps you from blindly following someone off of a cliff. I’ve never been a lemming, and the toxic culture of that church and my childhood home is why I learned to think for myself.

True Christians follow the teachings of Jesus, not of any one religious leader. If you’re Christian and questioning things #1 Great, I’ve done my job #2 I kindly invite you to ask yourself this: does your pastor teach the gospel of fear, or the gospel of love? Answer this question. Let them show you. If they spread fear, they are manipulating the congregation and undeserving of your faith and trust. Move on.

Delving Into Mysticism

Planned Mystical Experiences
Yes, one can plan their mystical experiences. By giving a mystical experience the proper time, we can honor it and maintain a degree of sacredness often reserved for such experiences. Don’t rush. If you can maintain a level of calmness then you can really divulge yourself into the non-ordinary reality of such an experience. The minute you rush what can happen is the adrenal glands will be activated, flooding the body with the energy of self-preservation. Mystical experiences often require the temporary suspension of self-preservation mechanisms in order to “rise above” the experience of separateness. Also, remember to give yourself time to “towel off” and integrate whatever experience you are blessed with. This is all with regards to a planned or self-generated mystical experience.


Unplanned Mystical Experiences
What if it’s unplanned? Then you are on your own my friend! Life has interesting ways of giving us what we need, even if it’s what we think we don’t want. Having a vision in the middle of the grocery store? Cool 🙂 The worst thing that can happen is that some people might think you look crazy.

If looking crazy is the worst thing that can happen, then all-in-all I’d say you have nothing to fear.

Just as no religion has a monopoly on spirit, so too does no spiritual path has a competitive advantage over the other. Mahatma Ghandi is often quoted to say that there are as many religions are there are people on this planet, which holds true if we honor everyone’s right to practice their own way of being. We are blessed in the United States of America to be given the right to practice whatever religion we choose, freely. In this capacity I exercise my sovereign right to practice experiential mysticism for no other reason than it is what i prefer, what I feel is right for me, and what I choose.

 






 

 

The Power of Choosing Seclusion

Are you the type of person to seclude themselves when things get hairy? Do you prefer to chill at home instead of socializing? I know I do. It’s easy to get into a pattern of seclusion as a default, but when it is chosen consciously with intention, it can really enhance ones quality of life.

Seclusion for seclusion’s sake sucks. Because I spent so many years in seclusion – isolation – emotional and sexual anorexia – it became a default modus operandi for me. But I’ve had the opportunity to do much inner work on myself (most notably with regards to the emotional and sexual anorexia), and so I have grown into a man who can now enjoy seclusion when it is chosen purposefully.

Sound familiar? Lots of empaths and introverts experience this (These two qualities are different things, but they often run hand in hand). I consider myself to be both. An empath feels deeply the feelings of others, which is a wonderful quality to posses. It becomes a burden, though, if that empath starts to look outside of themselves to figure out how to feel about something. This is very common in situations where that empath has dealt with or is dealing with great personal and emotional struggles and is unable to establish a sense of serenity within.
Balanced seclusion
I am an author, and a composer. To be alone and creative is absolutely wonderful. However, I have noticed recently that as a default empath, because I am human and still require social situations and basic human affection, I have to take charge of getting these needs met. For example, yesterday I chose to work on Igby (like my page!) for a few hours. It was great! I’m almost done with the first section and it is ridiculously exciting. But after a while I felt emotionally unfulfilled. Checking in with that emotion revealed that it had nothing to do with the book at all – I was just needing human love and affection – I was feeling lonely. There are times when I question the way that I am feeling in favor of accomplishing a certain task, but again, that had always been my modus operandi. It felt as if questioning the way I felt in favor of completing certain tasks was how I was trained to operate in school and college, so to question that paradigm is extremely empowering for me. So what I did is I hit up a friend from acro whom I look up to and asked if he wanted to grab a beer. Simple! Easy! All it took was me reaching out. As a deep thinker I often overthink things, and make social situations heavier than they actually need to be. I think this also has to do with a propensity towards intensity in relationships that I garnered by being raised by an emotionally intense mother. What this means is that I often look past normal, healthy human situations in favor of a more emotionally intense one, resulting often in a seeming unbalance in, for example, basic human affection versus intense romantic desire.

So to choose seclusion is super empowering for me right now. I went out, had a beer with friends, and got some normal human affection. I changed my approach to the whole situation, which ended up turning out beautifully. Instead of showing up and putting out a “I need affection” energy, I showed up genuinely interested in having a good time and adding value to the group. I used to do this until I’d feel drained, which was a problem. Knowing when to withdraw is an important skill. As an author and an introvert, it’s easier for me to seclude myself and build up energy that I can bring to social situations. This stuff is precious!!! Don’t squander it. Pour it over people that you genuinely care about, and who have demonstrated that they genuinely care about you. I showed up and gave away 4 quartz crystals that I had mined from the ground in Ida, Arkansas. It was a simple gesture, but I wanted to give something. Crystal gifting used to be a way for me to create covert contracts with other people (in a mafioso kind of way i.e. “I gave you this crystal now you owe me a favor, etc). But that’s not my intention anymore. I felt genuinely motivated to gift these crystals to people with whom I already had established relationship.
We all talked for a while, ate, drank, and laughed. It was a great time! You know what? I went home inspired, and full of energy, ready to write.

Active Seclusion.

Seclusion, for an introvert like me, should effectively recharge the individual. We power up our emotional batteries by taking care of ourselves. This is an active seclusion, where we are present and enjoying the process. If you need to be lazy, just enjoy it, mk?

For someone who grew up with low-self esteem, this part of the process can be terrifying! You mean i have to actually take care of myself? I thought that if I create enough covert contracts that someone will come along and be obligated to do it for me?

Wow, this one is huge. I struggled with this one for years and years. The truth of my experience reveals that, yes, there will be people in your life who genuinely want to meet your needs, and it is important to reach out and cultivate relationships where you are guided, empowered, and nurtured by parental figures in your life. But these people will provide this value to you becuase they want to, not because you obligated them through covert contracts.

It takes bravery to get your needs met if you’ve lived your life with the impression that you are unimportant – less than – unworthy. Mentorship can really help too, so find yourself someone who has been through a similar situation and model their behavior! Tip: make sure that your mentor is in a place of genuine giving so there is no room for obligation. They have to want to play that role for you.

Please use this post to spur new ideas about self care and the energy dynamics of active seclusion and social giving. Introverts, unite! separately, in the privacy of our own homes. Just kidding. Introversion is a fulltime position, but if we embrace it, we can bring a lot of unique value to the world, most notably, the value of being our happy selves.

In Love,

Tim

© Tim Stanek 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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