April 28, 2020
Understanding the MYSTICAL Experience
What is a mystical experience? Can anyone have one? Are they even real, or just some made up fantasy?
In this podcast we will explore the mystery, wonder, and the mind-blowing science of the mystical experience.
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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of “The BE ULTIMATE Podcast.” Please note that this is direct from Travis speaking unscripted and unedited.]
Welcome to episode number 70, “Understanding the Mystical Experience.”
You guys are going to love this one.
What is mysticism?
Mysticism is exploring the world beyond the five senses and understanding that we are more than just this limited physical body and that the universe is more than just material stuff.
Now I would never share anything with you guys that I haven’t experienced and verified for myself within my own practice.
In fact, I would say that my mystical journey began back at the age of nine years old when I started meditating. I remember doing these meditations and going to these worlds or these dimensions, however you want to call it, that existed beyond the senses. So at that young age, I was, I guess, exposed to this vision that there is more than meets the eye.
We know that human senses are only detecting a small amount of data and information on the spectrum of reality. Yet, as humans, we think that what we perceive is all that there is. But it’s these practices of yoga and the taoist philosophy and many of the ancient wisdom cultures that have these practices that took us beyond that which limits us.
I’ve also had mystical experiences in yoga classes and kirtan and chanting mantra over and over again. I remember one time we were doing a chant at the end of a yoga class. I was a student in this class. So it was right after I discovered yoga, and I remember having this outer body experience. It was so wild. I started to float above and out of my body until, eventually, I was on the ceiling of the studio. And the ceiling was probably about maybe 15 feet. So it was pretty high up there. I was gazing down on me and the whole entire class, and I just felt this unending rapture of joy and bliss.
I’ve also had the honor of being in the presence of saints and gurus. I believe the greatest guru is the guru that exists inside of you. I don’t think you should ever be dependent on an external teacher. I think that the greatest teachers are the ones that point you back to your own inner teacher. But at the same time, I’ve learned a lot from these wise men and these wise women.
I remember one time I went to go see a saint. She was from Indonesia, and she was visiting Los Angeles. And you go, and you receive what’s called darshan. Darshan is when the guru or the saint blesses you with this universal force of energy. Some do it through hugging. You may have heard of the hugging saint Amma G. Some do it by gazing into your eyes.
This particular saint, we would go one at a time and kneel down in front of her, and she would put her middle finger right here at the center of the forehead, the third eye. As soon as she made contact with my third eye, I had my eyes closed, but I got blasted with this lightning bolt of thunderous energy and light. I never experienced it before. It was like bam! And it was this huge force of energy. It was literally mind-blowing.
I’ve also been to Bali. I wrote about this in my book “A Journey into Yin Yoga” about how we met with this Balinese local shaman. We went to this temple to go receive a water blessing. When we got to the temple, there was no water around. So we’re walking around this temple, and me and my students were like, “Where’s the water?” Eventually, the shaman and his translator had us sit down in front of the temple. It was a sunny, hot afternoon, and we started doing this chanting, and we started doing these practices, and he was beating on this drum. All of a sudden, these clouds started to appear in the sky, and they started to drift over to where we were in front of the temple. Then the clouds – I kid you not – just unleashed a torrent of rain on top of us. This shaman was able to master the elements, and he made it rain. That was probably the wildest thing that I’ve ever seen, especially with my eyes open.
And then many, many mystical experiences on meditation retreats. I remember being on a Vipassana retreat in Northern California in the Goenka tradition and getting to day 5, day 6 of this 10-day retreat and my body dissolving into light during meditation. I remember one time taking this tour of my whole entire being, but on a subatomic level. I was beneath the physical material matter of my body, and I was seeing the energy and light and subatomic particles all as vibrating energy.
It wasn’t something that only lasted a second or two. This lasted for hours and day after day. Sometimes in meditation retreats, I would hear the most beautiful angelic choirs of music, more real than if I was to go crank up a stereo and listen to music, so pristine, beautiful and exquisite.
I don’t tell you these experiences to brag about it but to let you know that what I’m about to share with you, again, I have verified within my own practice and experience.
“The most beautiful thing that we can experience is the mysterious. It is the true source of all art and science.”
So the mystic, they go to the source, right? They go to the source of who we are. They go to the source of the universe. When you go to source, it’s infinite. You access infinite knowledge and wisdom and creativity. And it’s from that place that we’re able to bring that forth into this physical manifested world.
“Science is the contemporary language of mysticism.”
Dr. Joe Dispenza
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Joe, check out his books. I’ve done a lot of study with him, and he’s great. He’s great at translating the mystical experience and conveying, on a scientific level, exactly what’s happening.
So how does the mystical experience happen?
Well, sometimes it can happen outside of our yoga meditation practice. Sometimes it can be these little glimpses. In Japanese Zen, they call it satori, a brief little moment of awakening that can happen when you’re walking through the forest or walking through the mountains or perhaps watching a beautiful sunset or a stunning sunrise. It can also happen in moments of falling in love. The same chemicals that we experience when we fall in love also are produced when we have a mystical experience.
But often, the mystical experience happens in practice. It happens in those moments of meditation, chanting, and deep prayer.
So this mystical experience, we really see it in all the cultures and religions. There’s Christian mystics, Islamic mystics, Hindu mystics, Buddhist mystics. There’s agnostic mystics. Mystics exist in all these different branches of spirituality.
We begin to create the conditions of a mystical experience by quieting and focusing the mind. When the mind is full of noise and when the mind is distracted, we’re too obsessed with the external world. And mysticism is an inner exploration.
Now you can’t force the mystical experience to happen. It’s not something you can effort your way into. It is an act of grace. When it comes, it’s like the moment before a storm, where everything gets really, really quiet. You can feel within every fiber of your body, almost and an element of danger but a really good danger, the danger of stepping into the mystery, of stepping into the unknown, of stepping out of certainty into uncertainty. You know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are about to get cracked wide open.
This is a very important moment because there’s two things that can happen when you’re on the precipice of a mystical experience.
Option one, which happens to a lot of us and has happened to me, is you shut down. You’re like, “Holy shit. What’s about to happen?! This is too intense. So you contract and you go into fear.
Or option number two is to say, “You know what? Bring it on, baby! Let’s do this. I’m ready!” It’s a moment of courage.
You can meet the moment from fear and contraction, or you can meet it with a sense of courage, adventure, and openness and be ready to go with the flow.
Obviously, if you go with option 1, you’re not going to have the experience. You’re going to shut it down. It’s like a garden hose is flowing, and then all of a sudden you twist it up, and stop the flow from happening.
When it does happen, it feels like an energetic explosion. It’s like blast off! It’s like that moment in Star Wars where they go into hyper speed, and it feels like you’re going down this tunnel, like you’re going down this wormhole. When I was on Vipassana retreat and I had a mystical experience, I went down a wormhole of light and it felt like I was on a roller coaster, barely holding on. And then eventually, boom! all of a sudden it stopped. And it was as if I was floating in space and grace and bliss. In that in that moment, nothing was missing. Nothing was lacking. All there was is I was satiated with profound gratitude and love. As Joe Dispenza says, “It is the most familiar unfamiliar experience you will ever have.”
In that moment you transcend polarity and duality. You find unity and singularity. There’s just oneness. This is why all the great yogis and sages, they talk about oneness. The goal of yoga is to achieve this oneness with the universe. It’s like the raindrop disappearing into the ocean.
“Within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal One.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s all about oneness. Often in that experience, you have visions. You see things. You see images. You see movies. You see color. You see light. Very often, I have students that come up to me after a class, and they’re freaked out. They’re like, “Travis I was seeing purple. I was seeing light. I was having these flashbacks. What was that?!”
So let’s explore what exactly is happening on a scientific level.
First of all, what happens is, is that there’s a freeing of energy in the lower energy center, sometimes referred to as chakra. Chakra means wheel. It’s like a spinning wheel of energy. We have these energy centers, which are huge junctures of energy and information within the central channel, what’s known as the shushumna nadi. This runs from the tailbone all the way up through the top of the head, through the crown.
A lot of us are stuck, and the energy is trapped and frozen down in these lower energy centers. So we’re living in survival mode. We’re dominated by sexual thoughts. We’re dominated by our ego. These are indicative of being stuck in those lower energy centers.
The mystical experience is about moving and awakening this primal energy up the spine, up the shushumna nadi.
But there’s also more than just energy. There’s a substance inside of the spine called the cerebral spinal fluid, and this is made of protein-salt solution and also charge molecules. And this cerebral spinal fluid, along with the energy, begins to move up the spine through something called intrathecal pressure. So this intrathecal pressure causes that uprising of energy.
So now we’re moving up to the heart. When we move out of those lower energy centers and we get to the heart, now we’re no longer feeling separation. You’re starting to feel connected to the whole. As this energy continues to move up, it creates what’s called an inductance field, and this is a field or a flow of electromagnetic energy which the normal human eye cannot see. The mystic can often see it though. This energy can be measured on scientific instruments. It can also be felt when you’re around somebody who is benevolent and very special. You feel that energy. And when you’re around somebody that’s dark and evil and toxic and negative, you also feel that energy. So we all have this field of energy. But the mystic’s inductance field is organized energy. It’s not chaotic. It’s not dissonant. It’s harmonious. It’s elegant.
As the energy continues to rise up into the brain stem, it reaches the thalamic gate. This thalamic gate in the brain stem, it begins to open up. When this happens, the brainwaves begin to shift. Now the brainwaves go into what’s called gamma brainwave pattern. Gamma brainwave pattern is very fast, but it’s organized. Now the brain is vibrating at a very high level.
But again, it’s organized. It’s not like high beta brainwave patterns which is fast, but chaotic and disorganized.
Everything is organized and elegant in the mystical experience just like the universe.
Now the brainwaves are in a gamma brainwave pattern and the pineal gland releases metabolites, which switches off the analytical mind.
Now they’ve been doing a lot of research lately on plant medicine, whether it’s mushrooms, or there’s a lot of buzz around ayahuasca. Something they’ve been talking a lot about is this idea of the default mode network inside the brain. And the default mode network, to my understanding, is the part of us that creates ego and identity and separation.
Now the pineal gland signals the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland begins to release a flood or a cascade of these feel-good hormones and chemicals.
One of these is called oxytocin, and oxytocin is the love or the connection chemical. Another one is called vasopressin.
The oxytocin signals nitrous oxide. If you’ve ever been to the dentist to go get major surgery, you know that nitrous oxide is a really good thing, right? You want the nitrous oxide. Well, you don’t have to go to the dentist to get it. We have this alchemy and pharmacy within us.
So the oxytocin signals the nitrous oxide. And then what happens is the heart blasts open, and the arteries dilate. And what do you feel in that moment? You feel gratitude. You feel love. You feel bliss. You feel ecstasy. You feel it deep in your heart.
“The heart is the center from which everything springs.”
So now all this source energy gets unleashed, and you’re just feeling it. It’s literally reverberating through every muscle. Every bone, tendon, ligament, bone, cell in the body is satiated with bliss and ecstasy. In yoga, we call it ananda.
Then vasopressin, it causes the cells in the body to attract more water. Water is the perfect medium for electromagnetic energy. Now on a deep cellular level, the microtubules in the cells begin to vibrate faster. It’s like the gamma brainwaves. They’re vibrating so fast they get faster than the speed of light. This is huge because now you’ve gone from less matter into more energy. You’ve moved beyond the physical and material because you’re vibrating at such a fast level within the microtubules.
This is why saints often have a glow. I’ve seen saints in huge ballrooms and conferences, and they have a light that’s filling up this massive amount of space because they’re vibrating on a different frequency than the normal average person. They’re in a constant space of being in this mystical experience.
So now the pineal gland, it picks up this frequency that’s faster than the speed of light. Then melatonin gets an upgrade. This is important because the melatonin opposes the stress hormones, and now your body can move from survival mode into rest and recovery and repair.
Your pineal gland begins to transduce this high frequency. Your pineal gland is like a communication or a radio tower that’s picking up a frequency from the cosmos, from the universe, and then it begins to expand the horizon of your mind. Your mind widens its scope. Your senses begin to broaden, and you begin to transduce this frequency very often into that vivid imagery. This is where you have inner visions. This is where you see colors. This is where you see the light. That’s where the colors are coming from. It’s from people’s pineal gland picking up that frequency from the big self, from the cosmos, from the universe.
As you have this mystical experience, you lay down new circuitry in the brain, which allows you to, again, perceive a wider spectrum of reality.
Pretty amazing, right?!
The mystic, they come out of the mystical experience, and now they’re perceiving the world around them in a whole different way. They’re walking through the forest, and they don’t see trees like a normal person sees trees. They see the tree as this live, animated entity vibrating from source energy. And you see it in the ground, and you see it in rocks. You see it in inanimate objects. You see it in other people. You see it in all things.
Now you have this visceral experience that when the mystics say that we’re all one, it’s not just some new age huffy puffy theory, that it’s legit, and it’s real. Now you’re going through the world, and you’re realizing that everything that you think and everything that you say and everything that you do doesn’t just have an impact on you. It has an impact on everybody else. So now you begin to conduct yourself in a more noble, wise, and dignified way because you’re no longer operating in separation mode.
You’re no longer ‘othering’ people. You’re not a Republican othering the Democrats. You’re not a Democrat othering the Republicans. You’re not othering other nationalities, other skin colors and ethnicities. You realize the absurdity of all that and that that’s all part of the great illusion or what we call maya.
“Gaining enlightenment is an accident. Spiritual practice simply makes us accident prone.”
You can’t make the mystical experience happen. You can’t force it. You can’t meet it with aggression. The more that you try to force it, the more that you try to will your way into it, the less likely it is to happen for you. All we can do is just show up. We just show up, and we do the practice, and then one day, boom, it happens.
Let’s talk a little bit about the echo and the effects of the mystical experience, how this gives you a tremendous upgrade within your health and your well-being.
Number one, it stimulates stem cells. So now your stem cells are activated and you can go and create better quality tissue and better organs and better systems in the body.
It also releases a flood of antioxidants. We know the higher the oxidation rate, the quicker things begin to deteriorate. So this slows down the aging process. Maybe when you hear these stories of these yogis that live to be hundreds of years old, maybe they had mastered this.
Number three, it also produces neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the growth of new neurons in your brain, so your brain stays healthy. You ward off brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. You stay sharp in the brain.
Number four, it creates coherence in the brain. The right hemisphere is able to communicate to the left. The left is able to communicate to the right. Then the brain is able to effectively communicate throughout the whole entire nervous system. You’re literally getting a biological upgrade when you have the mystical experience.
It also lengthens the telomeres. The telomeres are those little caps at the end of your DNA strands. The longer the telomeres, the greater your lifespan.
Lastly, it improves your immune function. They measured it to improve it by up to 50%. You’re not getting sick. Your immune system is resilient. You’re staying strong. You’re staying healthy. And that’s because of those feel good hormones, of what you feel with the oxytocin, the vasopressin, where the heart just blasts open, and you feel the gratitude. Gratitude decreases inflammation.
So look, there’s many different types of mystical experiences. The ones that I’ve shared with you guys are just my experiences. It doesn’t mean that’s the only way for you to have a mystical experience or that somebody can’t have their own unique interaction with oneness.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
So to hear this knowledge is just one thing. To see it is one thing. But you have to do it in order to understand.
So how do you understand this? How do you do the mystical experience?
Remember the quote that enlightenment is an accident. Spiritual practice makes you accident prone. You can’t make it happen, but you can create the fertile conditions for it to become likely and much more possible for it to happen for you.
How do you do that?
Well, the way that I’ve done it, again, is through yoga practice, through long, deep breath work, pranayama, chanting mantras over and over again, deep prayer, and also meditation. These are the practices that have worked for me and also the practices that the great sages, yogis, spiritual masters and sadhus have also used for many years. So if they can do it and I can do it, I know that you can do it as well.
Now I want to finish with a last little story here, and this is a story from the great Zen master Ajahn Chah.
Ajahn Chah was this revered monk who had all these mystical experiences. But there was an elder, wiser monk that lived out in the forest that Ajahn Chah went to go see. He went to go see this master that was even more revered than he was as a younger monk. He explained to the older monk about his mystical experiences, and he shared. “I dissolved into light, and I was able to see past life experiences,” and all sorts of mystical things that had happened. The older, wiser Monk stopped Ajahn Chah, and said, “You’ve missed the point. The point is that you’ve had all these great mystical experiences. The point is, to whom are these experiences happening to?”
I wanted to finish with this story because very often, we can get attached to having these mystical experiences. If we do have it, the next time we show up for a meditation, there’s a good chance we may not have it again. I’ve gone months and years where I didn’t have the mystical fireworks going off in meditation. It was monotonous. You’re just showing up, and it can very often just be tedious. You don’t ever want to get attached to the fireworks of your meditation in your yoga practice.
When the older monk asked Ajahn Chah to whom has this happened, the point is he’s directing them to this place that’s even beyond and even deeper than the mystical experience because the mystical experience is temporary. But the dimension that’s beyond what’s impermanent is what’s eternal. And the question was “what part of you is this happening to?” That part is ‘awareness.’ It’s the soul. It’s the spirit.
Ultimately, in spiritual practice and mystical practice as well, this is where we want to get to. It’s like if you want to go from Los Angeles to New York and you get sidetracked in Chicago or Las Vegas because of all the lights and all the fireworks, we want to make sure we get all the way to our final destination beyond the fireworks. I hope that makes sense.
Thank you guys for tuning into another episode of The Be Ultimate Podcast. That’s it for this one.
And we will now finish with the ultimate prayer.
“May we bring strength where there is weakness.
May we bring courage where there is fear.
May we bring compassion where there is suffering.
And may we bring light where there is darkness.
May we be ultimate.”