…but is it real?

Tree Moon Lake (Copyright "Foundwalls.com")

Tree Moon Lake
(Copyright “Foundwalls.com”)

Aherm! Two posts in as many days? (Don’t be expecting it regularly! 😉 )

One of the questions that often crops up, is the reality, or otherwise, of the experiences involved in shamanic work. This is true also of meditation, path-working, and all forms of light work in which a trance, or semi-trance state is essential.

“Isn’t it just my imagination?”

The misgiving is quite understandable, and, if I may be so bold, completely unanswerable to the satisfaction of anyone intrigued enough to ask it. I can only offer an experience, of several years ago, by way of explanation.

At the time, way before shamanism entered my life, I was an active member of an online forum. Topics of discussion attracted the serious esoteric investigator. Amongst the membership, there were a significant number actively involved, at various levels, in meditation.

Someone suggested that it would be a nice idea to arrange a specific day and time at which we could all meditate as a group, and post our individual experience for the other members to read. Accordingly, a worldwide network of meditators all sat down at the same moment (GMT) and joined in meditation.

It all started off innocently enough, with a round of some of the simpler meditation exercises familiar to the beginner. We built up, over a period of months, through contemplation of various mandalas, focus on candles, meditations on the elements… It was when we got to “Aether” that some became uneasy.

The individual experiences appeared to be less “individual”, less driven by the disparite egos, and more aligned towards a common, shared experience; in which each individual’s experience appeared to express a unique viewpoint of a singular experience.

I can’t rightly remember the details of the what of that final meeting of the meditation group. The fallout from it, however, was the complete dissolution of the group, as the full import struck home…

A great, shimmering hall, roofed by the stars. The floor is chequerboard, black and white. In niches on the walls are statues of the Gods. There is a crowd around the room. They appear to be here to witness, but not partake. The meditation group find themselves arranged around a central table upon which stands a single candlestick. The candle flickers, there is a crash as the table overturns.  The crowd disperse…

The reports start to come in. All see the stars. One feels the pressing of the crowd; another the roundness of the table; another the single, elaborate leg; another is unable to complete the meditation as he accidentally kicked the table in his room; another sees the candelabra fall…

One by one, realisation dawned in each group member.

If this is “imagination” we have all “imagined” the same core elements. Though the details differed (the turn of the table leg, the numbers in the crowd, the Gods in the niches), our collective imagination had somehow merged to form a single experiential narrative.

Not only that, but the accidental toppling of a table in the physical reality of one of the group, appeared to find its reflection in that shared narrative.

Half the group fled, and were never seen at the forum again. Those that remained found themselves in the middle of a maelstrom which saw the dissolution of the group and the slow death of the forum as a serious place for discussion of esoteric matters.

The truth, stumbled upon that night, is too powerful for many.

We like the comfort of believing that the world in which we stub our toe, it hurts, it bruises, is “reality”. The world in which we fly above the clouds, leap mountains, save the maiden in the tower, is nothing but the imagination of “children”.

When these two worlds collide, and appear to affect each other directly, then the comfort of certainty falls away; yet the possibilities, ah, the possibilities, they are endless…

Anyone for meditation? 😉

About A Misanthropic Bear

Intermittent posting of random touchstones, memories and events. This wasn't meant to be what it would become... But then, is it ever?
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33 Responses to …but is it real?

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  3. I used to sit in group “meditation” sessions when i was very young, back in my college days. Coincidentally, i was interested in hypnosis and (back then) read a lot about hypnosis and self-hypnosis. It didn’t take me long to realize that a lot of what is purported to be group meditation… is – in actuality – group hypnosis or self-hypnosis. Although they were mesmerizing, i quickly got out of the group meditation sessions, realizing the inherent dangers involved. Meditation is not focusing on a point, symbol, or mantra; focusing (especially to the exclusion of everything else) is self-hypnosis.

    Personally, i feel that meditation is either what one does all day long – each day (and night)- or probably not at all… and is not something that one sits down to intentionally practice or do. I feel that if you intentionally “meditate” … you are not meditating. I do not think that one can even know when one is meditating. True meditation is not in the field of the known… and if you know (or think) that you are meditating… it’s very likely not meditation whatsoever. The unknown cannot be captured by the calculating field of the known. Practicing or intentionally meditating involves methodology; methodology is mechanical and calculating. Don’t get me wrong; sitting with a group quietly is fine, especially if it also involves a little serious (independent) discussion. However, it is all too easy to fall into structures fabricated by others and then contend that they are special or spiritual. Organized religions are great at playing that game.


    • Running Elk says:

      You have no idea how much I love this comment, Thomas. 😀
      My first encounter with “meditation” was with a Transcendental Meditation group. I only went along as my boss at the time felt my stress levels were off the scale. Fought his suggestion for about a year, then realised i had to do something and without a clue to any alternative took up his suggestion… Learned a good deal, and it allowed me to put a lot of my previous Meditation experiences into perspective, but can certainly concur on the danger you describe in 2nd paragraph. Most of each session was spent being indoctrinated into ego -worship of the Maharishi… 😦 It was when I burst out laughing at the Yogic Flying video that I realised it was “time to go…” 😉
      Your opening of same paragraph is indeed, in my experience, the case. Those who fled quickest from the group were the “look at me, I’m meditating, doesn’t that make me spiritual and special” types. It was telling, in the early days, just how “amazing” and “of the ego” their related experiences were. When the individual “experiences” began to converge, and be less about “them” and more about “group”, and they felt that they were no longer in “control” that they headed into the sunset. Now that you mention it, the same were the ones who suggested the “hypno” sessions (candles, mandalas, etc).


  4. Tried a few times to make a comment– maybe I should give up. Please delete if a triplicate. But in thinking of this post in terms of your last, it DOES seem like there are levels. The common experience all who are “psychotic” have is probably the lowest level. On the second level, the more “normal” collective unconscious of Jung. The third, the level of group meditation experiences that you started to share in your meditation group. Next would be the level of shamanic healing and other types of trance that you travel in daily. Moving up to mystical experiences and those experiences of saints and avatars like described by Paramanhansa Yogananda in “Autobiography of a Yogi.” And then????


    • Running Elk says:

      Interesting thoughts, Ellen.
      I’m wondering about lumping all psychotics into level one, though. There appears, in my mind at least, to be a continuum, at one end of which the psychotic break is more akin to the saintly experience.
      I’ve often thought, too, that many who inhabit our mental institutions are simply the victims of a society so desperate to maintain the collective illusion that it is unable to accept the normalcy of an experience other than the collective one.
      Much to consider. Thank you. xx


  5. dunstans says:

    Reblogged this on magicalgateways and commented:
    Here is a very insightful post from Shamanic Paths, and the issue of seeing and experiencing beyond and what can happen when..well, what we’ve been apparently working towards.. happens in our mediations, mediations and magic-making/experiencing ! X Dunstan


  6. bert0001 says:

    i might be ready for something like this … if there is a teacher too … 🙂 … or not … perhaps we are our best teacher


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  8. Fascinating….and indeed many possibilities suggest themselves from such an experience 🙂


  9. alienorajt says:

    Reblogged this on alienorajt and commented:
    This is a wonderful post – and there is much here I can identify with.


  10. alienorajt says:

    I’ll be there. I would love to do a group meditation of this kind. I know, from previous experiences, that we DO visit the same spheres – for want of a better word – at the same time as I have experienced this on several occasions. Funny really: people think nothing of the ‘coincidence’ of meeting someone they have been thinking about in the material reality – and yet many slam a terrified door upon even the suggestion of this happening on the inner planes. xxx


  11. You’ve written about this in such a compelling way. I’m always up for a group meditation, and it’s amazing the way in which experiences are shared. How interesting that so many of your group got scared…..I guess they weren’t looking for what they thought they were after all 🙂


    • Running Elk says:

      lol Indeed. A few had already been showing signs of misgivings, but that one pushed them over the edge. I suppose there are so many out there who have started on meditation solo, without any form of guidance on what to expect. Can’t say I really expected the convergence of experience either, of course. But when I’d been doing it for quite a few years prior, and fully trusted the various experiences I’d had up till then. Fear certainly seemed a strange reaction, though – I was just left completely blown away, and yearning for more! (As well as an explanation as to how this could be… 🙂


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  13. Count me in, too. Must admit that in my travels post breakdown, years ago, I never saw such a sight. Must have been a lower level of travel. Thanks for posting this important, informative post. As a shaman, you are now a guide– especially since you had traveled before your step up to other levels. You have the most interesting blog! *♡* Ellen


  14. tiramit says:

    Interesting post, I suppose a shared reality could be pretty nearly anything, as long as those you’re sharing it with are all equally committed to it being a ‘reality’. Where it goes wrong maybe is fear coming in and ‘the comfort of certainty falls away’, everything is suddenly unstable…


    • Running Elk says:

      Mmmm. Indeed. The early signs were already showing – we should have known better than to continue, really… lol
      Feels like for any level of success the participants would need to be all on the same page. The flip side, of course, being that such a group need not necessarily have positive intent. But that is probably for another post… 😉


  15. Dra says:

    Thank you for this post. As you know, I love the endless possibilities of meditation and I’m always available to fly the aethers with you… Just name the place and time and I’ll be there! xx


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