Perhaps the greatest privilege we can receive in our world is our unique faculty to experience moments when our consciousness expands dramatically; inexplicable moments when we can feel the sacred, ineffable, all embracing Presence of God.
You may wonder: What is this experience of the Presence of God truly like?
When I asked this question to my young granddaughter, Emunah, she said simply: “The presence of God? Yes, I remember… I was on a hike, walking in nature.” She stretched her arms out, her voice tone changed, there was softness in her eyes, as she continued. “It felt like: I love the whole world so much, I want to hug all of it in my arms. Everything is good. Everything is so peaceful, so quiet. What could ever be wrong? I was crying and laughing at the same time.”
There are times when a spiritual experience can dawn on us as a surprise, a complete gift. Such moments can envelop us with a sense of blissful euphoria even in the midst of our most mundane chores or activities.
People have also reported miraculous stories in times of crisis or danger, as they felt enveloped in perfect calm and safety. Some heard a clear and firm voice guiding them to say or do exactly what was necessary to save their lives. Sometimes it was simply a compelling, inner knowing that peacefully directed each of their decisions, and these turned out to be perfect.
I remember speeding on a highway in the 80’s from Los Angeles to Palm Springs with my husband Joshua and with our honored friend, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Joshua was at the wheel with Rabbi Carlebach seated next to him. It was a bright sunny morning. As we were driving through a desert, we didn’t realize that there was water on the road ahead, which is rare in that usually extremely hot desert area. There had been some showers before we got there.
Suddenly the car was skidding wildly, dancing a magnificent waltz, swaying to and fro from one side of the freeway to the other side, merrily going its own way. I vividly remember the scene: gliding and majestically sliding over a luminous, silvery highway, bright with sunlight reflected off the water, a magnificent blue sky, golden sands and distant hills. Strangely, I wasn’t afraid. I was communing with the beauty around me, feeling completely safe and protected.
Rabbi Shlomo was, of course, silently and deeply praying, and Joshua was following his intuitive reflexes at the wheel which had served him well all his life. He was also applying the rules he knew to follow in such instances: “No stepping on the brakes, no trying to steer his car in any opposite direction.” He was calmly declaring to us (and to himself as well!) “Don’t worry; it’s going to be all right! Everything is fine!” All this happened within a few long seconds.
Reflecting on this now, I realize how I have been protected from harm and tragedy and from fear in countless ways, whether I was aware of it or not. For when confronted with real danger, I automatically shift into an altered state, enjoying the beauty and perfect order of that moment, sensing the Presence of God here and now. And I always came out unharmed from these dangerous episodes! Only I am not grateful enough.
Thank God, Joshua was able to regain control of the car. In moments like these, most everyone naturally and immediately calls on Divine Protection, each in our own unique way. With Rabbi Carlebach there how could any harm ever have happened?
For some people the Divine Presence has been felt as a sense of warmth, exultation and euphoria, perhaps during a wedding, a celebration or a concert. They can feel embraced with sheer ecstatic delight as they allow their bodies to move with the rhythm, with the melodies and sounds from the band. Their spirit soars as they step forth, dancing in harmony with others, as they feel the bliss of oneness with everyone there.
Experiencing the Divine Presence has been described as feeling marvelously alive with a finer energy coursing through, with every cell, every particle of our being vibrating with vital energy. It is like being immersed into a greater Power, connected in love and compassion to every soul in this world, blessing them with the boundless blessings flowing from Infinite Realms. Many realize that this Infinite Presence of eternal Love is ever waiting for each of us to merge with its flow of immense eternal compassion.
For me this feeling is an overwhelming sense of wonder, gratefulness, awe, complete safety and inner peace. It is a state of profound stillness, feeling deeply cherished and loved, honored and protected. In those moments the true nature of my life situation becomes crystal clear. Compassionate guidance reveals to me a wider, more expansive, luminous, loving perspective that helps me live in greater joy. There is also an inner voice which clearly suggests the next practical steps to take in my everyday living. At other times I have become aware of a pristine, transcendent Light. It is very real, penetrating my innermost self, infusing, purifying and cleansing. It steadies me with a sense of strength and balance. A deep certitude fills me, a wondrous knowing that all creation is supported and held in the loving care of an Eternal Power, a Power filling the whole universe with goodness, with beauty, with harmony and with ever flowing life. This Power supports all existence in oceans of love and bliss.
Therapists and many of our Counseling students lovingly engaged in listening, empowering and comforting people, have reported experiencing a surge of new inspired ideas and words pouring through. Their hearts open, they get really excited and exhilarated, their energy is intensified and their words have the ability to reach those they touch with the power to heal them.
Musicians, scientists, artists and creative minds engaged in new ventures are often lifted with a surge of enthusiasm and all embracing zest for life. There is a flow of ideas streaming in. This usually happens in a peaceful, totally focused, flowing, altered state of mind.
Creativity in action can be pure divine ecstasy.
There has been many unique opportunities in my life to be present when people were gathered together with their attention on profound, heartfelt prayers or meditative focus. In these moments, there is a palpable change in the atmosphere – the ineffable sense of a sacred Presence enfolding all those present. It is a sense of oneness, being embraced by this infinite Force, this intensely alive, transforming, empowering Presence that is regenerating and healing us.
In those sacred moments our stress and fears simply melt away. There is a yearning to dedicate ourselves to God’s service, to honor the voice of our soul, to listen to our heartfelt promptings toward kindness and toward courageous, creative action. The soul beauty of others, their precious uniqueness, suddenly reveals itself to us with a sense of peace and compassion. We are awed, humbled and grateful, totally engaged, totally devoted to this infinite, loving Presence that created all.
Strangely, most often the intense energy of these sacred moments lasts only for a while. It seems that most of us do not know yet how to live for long with this transcendent, lofty energy. Personally I am always amazed to see how quickly these priceless, most vitally important healing experiences can vanish from my awareness.
This is why it is important to record these experiences in writing or express them in some way as soon as possible. The surprising thing is, when we review these experiences later on in our writings, we may suddenly remember. And especially in moments of prayer, when we return to a state of greater aliveness, we may think: “Oh! Of course! Yes…How could I ever forget?” These glorious moments can still bless us with their Light, even many years later, for they are engraved in our heart. When we choose to focus on them, they have the ability to gently change us. We get in touch again with our basic yearning for happiness, for strength and inner freedom, our yearning for joy, bliss, love and fulfillment. Even when these seem completely out of reach, even when we have stopped believing they can ever come to us, the yearning for them is compelling and enduring. We find ourselves dreaming about them.
The reason for this is that on a deep soul level many of us know that we are created to receive the fulfillment of these yearnings. Consciously or not we sense that this is our destiny, we sense that these dreams are meant to be fulfilled, one way or another, in the course of time. There is a place deep within us which is dreaming like a child. We remember this taste of bliss, of unutterable grace. Somehow, we can sense we are bound to reach it sometime in our future. We know we have a Home.
According to the teachings of Sages, tzaddikim and Kabbalists, as well as the reports of countless other people who had mystical or near-death experiences, our real, true essence never dies. Our unique faculties of emotions, perceptions, yearning, creative thinking, initiative, can never disappear. Our knowing, our choices, our compassion and love are our true identity. They continue evolving with time into higher and vaster pathways of divine love, wisdom, joy and peace. This happens according to our willingness and focus. We are here to develop this choice to grow, this determination to overcome our obstacles, this will to improve ourselves. We are here to express strength, courage and discernment and right choice. What we do in this world will greatly affect what level of blissful joy we will reach in those glorious dimensions that are awaiting us after we complete our lives here.
We could compare our present human condition in this world to the launching of a rocket into space. In order to go far into space, the rocket needs a steady, solid physical ground against which to build its thrust upward. So it is for us. We can go much further into awesome blissful realms after we have dealt with this physical earth and body and gathered here the fierce and fiery energy of our soul’s desire and commitment that seeks to propel us God ward.
In the meantime, even in our darkest, most difficult times, these magical moments of truth can come bursting forth into our lives, even when we expect them the least! They are truly gifts from on High which we are meant to receive,
simply because we are human beings, because we are blessed children of the Most High created with immeasurable potential.
How can we invite our encounters with the Presence of God to return to us?
You may ask: “Is there a way we can hold on to this blissful awareness? How can we retain some of that peace, that strength and joy? How can we bring them back?
Our world is blessed with many courageous, holy men and women, people of faith, depths of awareness, higher vision, integrity and kindness. They may be simple teachers, counselors, Rabbis, housewives, or engaged in any humble profession. When you choose to persistently look for them, they can appear in your path and make your search easier. As you talk with them, they will immediately recognize your inner yearning, which is theirs as well. They will help you, because they are treading a little ahead of you on their spiritual journey. They will reach out to you with compassion, and certainly seek to encourage you in the best way they can. Chances are that just by watching them you will be able to trust in your own ability to connect with this Eternal, Loving Presence. As you sit in their company, you will once again sense this wondrous feeling of being cherished, protected, and guided. Their example shows you how to grow in faith, in strength, in love; through prayer, through meditative study, and through acts of kindness.
Praying together connects us to the Divine Presence and opens the way to a flow of blessings.