During my body work session with N., my dog, Phoebe, an elderly rescue beagle mix, said to me, "I'm sorry I just didn't have it in me to stay, Sheryl."
And that is when I knew I was having a God moment.
Earlier that day, in a nice bit of synchronicity, I was driving to my massage therapy appointment while listening to PIttman McGehee on cd lecture about the seven "top" ways we can experience the Transcendent. These categories include nature, creativity, love, the body, suffering, ritual process, and dreams. An experience of God in any of these ways, McGehee says, takes us momentarily away from ourselves to a place outside of time and space. For although God exists in all things even in the here and now, God is larger and more expansive and exists outside the time and space continuum as well. So when we have an experience of God, we too are drawn into a numinous place that transcends our human ego and its concepts of time and space.
I have an awareness of experiencing this breaking through of God just a handful of times. Of course this doesn't mean God hasn't tried breaking through to me a million times before, it just means these are the times I was aware of and can remember.
The first one occurred in 1995. I was having an outpatient medical procedure done, and it was supposed to be quick and painless. During one particularly painful part, I grabbed my husband's hand and gripped it as tightly as I could, and began to imagine myself as a tree. I saw myself tall and full, a mighty oak tree in the middle of summer, leaves green and lush filling out the many branches reaching up towards a bright yellow sun. I felt the rays of the sun grow warm and warmer still on my face, and then all of a sudden I saw nothing but bright silvery white-yellow light filling my vision. I was totally outside of my body's experience of being on a cold uncomfortable procedure table in a doctor's office putting a death grip on Glenn's poor palm and fingers. I had no idea of time passing. I only knew that I felt nothing except being absolutely irradiated by light and heat. When I came back to myself, my face was sunburned a bright red. I had a very felt sense of Divine healing in the afterglow; I had experienced the Transcendent in the Immanent. And if I had to place what happened in one of the above categories, I would have to choose three of them: body and the senses, suffering, and maybe also dreams.
That was the experience of the Transcendent that started my long snail-paced movement back towards God, organized religion, and ultimately Divinity School and Spiritual Direction.
The most recent experience occurred during my last massage therapy session. I was facedown on the table and N. was working deeply in my left hip. As I was noticing the heat in her hands and the "hurts- so- good" feeling radiating from my hip, I went outside of myself into a vision. In this dreamlike space, I was lying on my back on the floor and my thirteen year old beagle mix, Phoebe, was curled up next to me. As we reclined there companionably together, Phoebe said to me, "I am sorry I didn't have it in me to stay, Sheryl." A feeling of empathy and love washed over me, I felt very tender towards the old dog, and I said back to her, "You don't have to stay here, Phoebe, you have had a good long life and been a good friend to me here, you can go when you want or need to go."
And then it hit me like a punch in the solar plexus, that voice did not belong to my good old dog Phoebe. Besides, dogs don't talk! That voice belonged to my Mother, who died unexpectedly of a stroke back in January of this year. As this awareness penetrated, I spoke back silently to my Mom, offering her my love and assurances that there was nothing to forgive. I understood, and I loved her then and loved her still. I thanked her for her past love and care for me, and for her continued loving Presence. Tears flowed as I came back into my present, and found myself still on the table receiving massage therapy.
Wow. What a healing experience that was for me. And I believe it tapped into the Transcendent through three categories: the body and its senses, love, and dreams. Dreams because I went off into a dream state. The body and its senses because N. always has her workspace full of good positive energy and pleasing aromas, peaceful music, calming and quiet, and of course the wondrous touch of her healing hands kneading out my sneaky emotions hiding pent-up in the nooks and crannies of my body fascia. And love, because when N. works on my body, I feel as if she is a pure and clear channel of Divine love and that with each touch she is loving me as herself. She is loving me as a fellow beautiful Soul making the embodied journey towards wholeness. She is loving me as if she already sees me whole. I don't know if this is because she also incorporates Reiki into her therapy, or if it is because it is a particular gift of hers. It doesn't really matter, does it? I feel Divinely loved through the work of her hands.
And isn't that really all of our work? To not only be open to experiencing God in unexpected ways in unexpected places, but also to learn what are our own special ways we are called to channel God's healing love to one another and to ourselves? There may be seven "top" ways to categorize the many ways we can meet the Holy in everyday life, but there are as many ways to be God's healing love on earth as there are people on the planet. When we all manifest our particular calling to love, Transcendence will no longer be relegated to breaking through via experience, but instead shall be ALL of our experience, and all of our experience shall be outside time and space.