I’d like to share a very surreal experience that happened to me the other day, something that I’ve vaguely felt before but it seemed much more pronounced than usual.
I’d just finished a relatively short day at work, only having three classes. But they go quite late, ending at around eight o’clock in the evening. It was a dark and somewhat chilly night (or an absolutely freezing one if you’re not used to the temperature here), but mild by the standards of the Ice City. It had been snowing the day before, so a fresh blanket was lain out on the street that workers were busily trying to clear. Patches of ice frequently build up, making a casual walk from the bus stop to home just a little bit treacherous.
I was in a rather good mood, having completed my duties for the day and was looking forward to getting home and having a nice cooked meal made by my fiancee. I was thinking of a rather interesting blog post I’d read earlier that day (see here) about the aseity of God, or in other words, the idea that God is Being itself. God is that which gives the universe it’s suchness, to borrow a Buddhist term.
Contemplating this whist looking at my surroundings, feeling the cold on my face, listening to the honking of horns, something triggered in my consciousness. A mindfulness swept over me, I became completely present-centred, living and experiencing everything around me from moment to moment. The stream of thoughts normally clattering around my mind disappeared only occasionally to resurface, yet to be swept away almost as soon as they arose. Everything seemed perfectly in tune, a divine symphony, so to speak.
The sight of regular things that I wouldn’t normally take much notice of, like the neon-lit signs of restaurants, old crumbling buildings, and dirty grey snow suddenly appeared beautiful to me, like they were simply meant to be there. The usual cacophony of sounds that interspersed the silence of the late evening such as the grinding of machinery used to clear snow, the loud shouting of the oftentimes harsh northeastern Chinese accent, the pop music crackling from decrepit speakers, all sounded incredibly pleasant to the ears. The sensations of my body too were like gifts from God – the cold scratching my face, the crunching of ice and snow beneath my feet, the warmth and softness of my coat – reminding me of how alive I was, and that I was part of the same sense of being as all else around me. My actions of walking was so purposeful, yet so at ease without any thought given. I never slipped on ice once, and I crossed the road, avoiding traffic with no effort at all. Intensely aware, yet lofty and relaxed.
My sense of self partly dissolved temporarily, myself as the experiencer merged to an extent with that which is experienced. A sense of oneness emerged with the people I walked by, the trees lining the streets, the concrete pavements, the air I breathed and all else around me. Everything was at peace with itself. I was at peace with myself, and all was in a state of harmony and tranquility. Nothing seemed out of place, all was right where it belonged. Perfect.
Arriving at my apartment building, scaling the stairs slowly, the experience starting to fade, yet still there, I noticed the details of the building that typically look rather wretched before you enter the apartment, but this didn’t matter to me. I opened the door to be greeted by my beautiful fiancee, filling me with joy, and finally, as we sat down for dinner, did I return to my normal state of being and consciousness.
Quite a profound experience, happening during such a mundane time of the day. Was it just an intense sense of mindfulness? Was it a small taste of the mystical experience? Or was it that I was just cleared headed and in a good mood after work? I don’t know, but whatever it was, it was an incredible moment, lasting a good ten minutes or so. Definitely a walk home to remember.