Moira Darling, Victoria Regional Meeting
In statistics the pieces of data that are unexplained and vastly different are called outliers, and they are deleted from the data set because they affect the results. I wonder if this is also the way we treat our mystical experiences – letting them go because we can’t explain them, knowing that they will affect the patterns of our lives if we give them agency. What would happen in our lives and the world if we expanded the frame to allow legitimacy to these unexplainable experiences?
I went to America to attend the course “The Mystic’s Experience: Communion with the Divine” led by Elaine Emily and Joe Garren. When I attended this course I did not expect that I would be the mystic whose experience I encountered. It was surprising for me to recall the many small and large experiences of the mystery that I have had and to recognise these as the movement of Spirit in my life.
Some of the most profound of these experiences occurred at times when I did not have a formal spiritual practice or community to engage with. It was shocking for me to recognise pivotal times and decisions when I turned my back on the call of Spirit in my life and to see the deeply painful results that ensued. I wonder what decisions I might have made if I had been able to recognise the sacred that was so active in my life at these times, to be enabled to express leadings and be supported by a community into action. How might I have been able to work with Spirit in the unfolding of my own part in this life?
Being lovingly held in the extraordinary space of this course as others listened deeply to my experiences enabled me to recognise the sheer number and magnitude of spiritual encounters in my life. A small range of them includes…
- Feeling like a sardine can opened and spilling love over all. An intense experience over 2 to 3 days lasting for about 3½ weeks in total, with impacts for 6 months until I stopped the flow with a decision counter to the “still small voice inside”.
- The synchronicity, in response to an unrecognised prayer, leading to meeting the love of my life and current husband.
- Feeling the infinity and boundlessness of God and the interconnectedness of all whilst in Worship.
- The miraculous healings that have occurred in my own life and the lives of others.
- The surprise of giving ministry and hearing the relieved response of the gathered meeting as it deepened.
- Bewilderment at feeling the “Light” pour down into me as I held others in loving attention and at other times during worship as I have struggled with deep internal conflicts.
- Being in the “power of the Lord” with words flowing through me for the consideration of others and the fearful knowledge that this was also a call to action for myself.
- The feeling of being “held” by the loving attention of my Quaker community in times of brokenness or when engaged in deeply spiritual work.
- The experience, when feeling reluctance and reticence, of being prompted by the ministry of others to deliver my own ministry.
- The surprisingly easy outflow of words that occurs when I follow the prompting of Spirit.
The gift of this Mystic’s Experience course held in the loving crucible of Friends General Conference has been the widening of my own frame to validate, normalise and incorporate the mystical as part of my daily life. I now deeply know the importance of loving, faithful community in recognising and acting on the call of Spirit in my decisions. I am incorporating a more conscious engagement with my faith community, opening myself to be lovingly tested, strengthened and supported in courageously stepping out in response to the call of Spirit in my life. I am exploring the richness of deeper engagement with Spirit and my spiritual community and appreciating the transformation in my life and the lives of those around me.
“Living life at the edge of the village” was one of the descriptions of the mystic’s life that resonated deeply with us all in the Mystic’s Experience course. Maybe it is time now for us all to explore the edges of our own village, reclaim the outliers of our experience and find a way to mainstream the mystery in our own lives. I look forward to engaging in more conversations about our spiritual experiences as we practice our faith in sacred community.
 The course “Mystics Experience: Communion with the Divine” was one of the offerings in the program at Friends’ General Conference (FGC) that ran from 5 to 11 July 2015 in North Carolina, amid the Smoky Mountains. I was strongly supported by my local meeting and the Thanksgiving Fund to go to the course and was richly rewarded.