A Spiritual Experience - Ecotrain's Question of the Week

This week's QOTW by @ecotrain is asking us to share the story of a spiritual experience. Immediately my reaction was to sit this one out, since spiritual experiences are not easy to share. What is deeply meaningful for one person may not be the same for others. Besides, what qualifies as a spiritual experience anyway?

But then I thought... why not? And this time I'm not even going to read any of the other replies posted already, but jump right in, telling the story that I've considered the only spiritual scrape for a long time. (I've had a couple of others later on.) So here it is, I hope you can relate to it a little bit.

Before the Spiritual Experience Comes a Ghost Story

Okay, so there is a precursor of sorts introducing the actual story. I was the summer of 2001 and I living in Tucson, Arizona at that time, in a housing cooperative with a bunch of hippies. One day, when the heat was becoming unbearable, some of us decided to go out into a nearby canyon to visit a waterfall. Note: though this pic is of the Grand Canyon, it was taken around the same time, and is the closest, most appropriate photo I have to illustrate my story with.


We piled into an old Volvo station-wagon, and drove out into the desert. In the end, the place where the waterfall should have been only had a few puddles of reddish bracken water, so we started walking back to the car through the canyon. Our little group pulled apart a bit, with me walking by myself in the middle, while the girls were further ahead and the guys a bit behind me. Still, the canyon carried the sound so well, that I could still hear the voices from both groups. At times I could even identify who was talking, though I could not make out the words.

Suddenly There Was a New Voice, Whispering My Name!

I stopped, and looked around. Nobody anywhere. Still the voice kept whispering: David! David! It was a female voice, quite obviously not belonging to any of us, whom I could still her ahead and behind me. She seemed to be speaking right next to me too. I sat down on a rock, waited, and tried to communicate with this supernatural encounter, as I understood. Later on, as I remembered and discussed this experience with others, I realized that I may have had to pronounce my words to her, but in fact I was just asking her in my mind: who she was, and what she wanted. But the only two things I heard her say was my name David! and the affirmative Yes!

And Now For The Actual Spiritual Experience

In the end I gave up on trying to talk to this ghost lady, or canyon spirit, or whoever it may be. At first I didn't even mention it, only gradually did I involve a select few people in this supernatural experience. About half a year later, however, I went back into the canyon for some guidance, and came back with a complete game plan.

A lot of things had happened since then. On the global scale 911 had just twisted up the life as we knew it in the United States. I had also graduated from university, majoring in anthropology, forcing me to leave the US within three months. On the other side of the Atlantic, Germany was already expecting me, as I was due for my military service. While I was a student this could be postponed, but not any longer.

But by that time I thought I was completely done with civilized society. My dream of becoming an academic had crumbled under the mounting pretense and blatant hypocrisy I saw among my professors. The last straw was when after the attacks the same people who had been so critical of the disastrous foreign policy of their country, shut up, raised the flag, and became good patriots. Screw them, I thought. But what about me? Am I going to succumb to expectations yet again, and return to Germany, a place I never liked, to sacrifice yet another year of my life, serving a corrupt system (with or without a weapon, didn't matter)?

Illegal in the Whole World?

Or should I pursue the alternative? After pulling through school, and actually graduating, would I drop out completely from civilized structure? Would I become an illegal alien in the States, while being a deserter to the German flag? Would I give up my legal status in all countries, making me pretty much a pirate, something that I'd dreamed of a lot? The hippies of Tucson had a wonderful network for all sorts of drop-outs, from runaway teens to Latin Americans who have recently found their way across the border. One time I even met two European eco-terrorists, who were hiding out after causing some major damage to an oil refinery. Would I have to join their ranks, maybe?

Why Not Ask The Lady of the Canyon?

This was what my good friend suggested, as I told her about this immense decision that I had to face. And yes, she was one of the few people I had confined my ghost story of that summer. And since I didn't have any better option myself, I decided to take her advice.

The next morning I took a bus to the edge of town, and there I started walking towards the canyon I remembered. I had two gallon jugs of water with me, a bag of jerky, and a bottle of orange juice. By the time I reached the bottom of the canyon it was starting to get dark. I found a nook in the rocks under a wide rock, and I kept waiting. No voices this time, just the sounds of the night. Eventually I fell asleep.

The next day I still didn't hear a thing, but it felt like the tall Saguaro cacti were talking to me. The morning was cool, and I was shivering a bit, so they looked at me surprised, as if saying: This guy is not rooted in one spot like the rest of us. He could easily climb higher where the sun is warm already. So why doesn't he?

The Revelation Comes in Symbols

That's what I did, and already it felt better. Still I heard no words, but the canyon continued talking to me. It explained how fortunate I was to have clean water with me, since the only thing it could offer was the bracken, red water, full of plankton. It also told me not to worry about the empires out there, as they are bound to fall, and become sediments, just like the ones displayed in its walls. Still, all those sediments do their job in cleaning the water... but if I want to actually drink it, I will have to do whatever I can to find it. It's not easy, and all of us, the cacti and all, are after the clean water. Or else, I could always opt for the plankton.

So gradually, as I started walking back, these messages kept on coming, in various other examples, all just telling me what I could see anyway, but put in a context that made everything crystal clear. I had to go back to Germany, that was certain. I had to submit myself to one last year, which in the worst case would be waiting in a comfortable setting, or lots of good times and interesting people at best. My disillusion with academia ran much deeper, and I was pretty sure I would pursue my old dream of an academic life. But at least I would not be fully in the black. Instead, I could explore the gray area, with infinitely more opportunities to be both inside and outside of things.

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