Five Insights That Changed My Experience of the World

[This is Part 2 of a three-post series.] Last week, I wrote about (some of) the pain that I’d experienced for the first 44 years of my life. In April 2010, what I thought I knew about life and being human was blown wide open.

I woke up one spring morning feeling happier and more peaceful than I had ever felt before. For someone who had been suicidal for years, plagued by anxiety and depression, it was the emotional equivalent of putting on active noise-cancelling headphones. Those painful feelings were simply gone, lifted.

I’ve written about this before as my “bliss episode,” because “spiritual awakening” wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t have language for what happened. I didn’t have anyone I could ask—and it would be another decade before I had anyone to talk to about this experience. Besides, I later thought, “Who am I to say I had a spiritual awakening?”

Over time, though, after talking to a few people and reading dozens of accounts by other people, I have come to feel confident that’s what happened. I wanted to write more about it, because “bliss”—while fun—wasn’t the most significant part of this experience. The bliss came from insights that freed me from my own expectations of myself and others. I mean, it’s an ongoing process (I’m certainly not free of all expectations, as my closest friends can attest), but the biggest chunk happened that day.

These experiences came as sensations in my chest that I instinctively understood (though of course, my ego has hijacked these insights more than once—but that’s another post). 

Here are the insights that radically changed my way of being in the world:

Everything [natural] is love

I can’t really explain how I knew what I knew. That morning, as I made my way from the bedroom to the to the kitchen, I felt a sensation in my chest and at the same time, had a feeling of utter knowing that I was love, that everybody and every thing in the natural world—my cat Hedda, the trees and bushes outside my window, the spiders that came indoors for warmth in winter…even my bullying neighbour was love. I didn’t understand what that meant on a conceptual, intellectual level; I simply experienced it and knew.

From deep within, I “heard” (felt) a voice: “You aren’t crazy. You’re perfect, just as you are.”

I felt expanded with a sense of unconditional love.

When I say “love,” that’s my interpretation of the sensations in my chest. The word has a much bigger meaning to me now than simply “I love this person or thing.” It’s going to take a while for me to write all the different pieces, which are all connected, but for now, what came to me was that the fabric of the universe is love. Today, I see pieces of blown glass as a metaphor. We are each unique in physical form, yet we are all animated by the same thing—the air that made the form possible.

Leaning into the quantum field

I’m not talking about a Creator God, which is a human construct. Only the egos of powerful white men could imagine the source of all life as a bearded white man (and what a convenient construct that is to keep white men in power and everyone else…not).

I’m talking about a quantum field of energy that runs through every life form on this planet and connects us all—the source of all life. People talk about having a ‘spark’ or ‘drop of’ the divine in everyone, but in my experience, it’s more like an energy field that permeates all of us—there is no separation on that level. Our bodies are separate; the energy is one unified field, like rays of the same sun.

Many of us talk about asking for help from “the universe” or “life,” without realizing that each of us is an active part of the universe. Every one of us is so much more than we think we are.

“We gave you this body for a reason”

As I looked out over the back yard and marveled at the ocean in the distance, I ‘heard’ “We gave you this body for a reason.” I’d always been a larger woman, physically strong, and I inherited tons of body image issues and disordered eating patterns from my mother. Yet in one fell swoop, all the hostility aimed at my body fell away, replaced by immense appreciation for my body’s strength, health and resilience.

It felt as though a ten-ton weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I couldn’t have known then that less than a decade later, my body would literally be reshaped, giving a whole new meaning to “we gave you this body for a reason.”

The optical delusion of consciousness

It was a gorgeous spring day, so I decided to walk to the waterfront. Half a block from my apartment, I stopped in my tracks as another realization appeared: That the way I’d been perceiving the world for 44 years was completely backwards. I didn’t have to “justify my existence” (a phrase I heard daily through childhood), “make something” of myself, or “leave my mark.” Nobody is required to do these things.

Our purpose as humans on this planet has nothing to do with everything our culture values: status, achievements, belongings and materialism. Instead, this entire human life is about growing on the inner level and becoming a kinder, more compassionate and generous person—to myself and others.

It was as though I’d put on new glasses that allowed me to see this same world through new eyes.

Another big chunk of bliss emerged at this point. I’m not great at functioning in the “outer world,” but inner work? I could totally do that. I felt a relief a bit similar to a weekend or vacation—the bliss of no pressure, no expectations, no need to succeed but simply to be.

We live in an experiential illusion, what Einstein is said to have called “an optical delusion of consciousness.” That phrase echoed in my head that morning. Everything our culture believes is important, isn’t. The most important aspects of being human are those that our culture dismisses or ridicules, like accomplishment and being open-hearted.

This is very, very hard to put into words, because language is so limiting, and what I’m writing about can’t be conveyed in language; language can only point to the inarticulable experience (hence all the analogies). On top of that, each of you who reads this brings your own filters, biases and life experiences to your interpretation of my words. It’s messy.

Finding meaning and purpose in the depth of life

Most of the time, we only see the surface of our lives: Our workplaces, colleagues, lovers, friends and neighbors. We take our interactions with them—whether collaborating, arguing or having dinner together—at face value.

All the things we’ve been conditioned to believe are important—visible external success, material acquisitions, being perceived as ____ (fill in your own blank here – smart, educated, accomplished, attractive)—these things mean nothing in the big picture. They are utterly irrelevant to our purpose for incarnation, except when we take action in the service of humanity and all of nature. This is tied into social change, which I’ll explore more in the next post.

The challenges we face in our external lives—financial, social, work, relationships—are instruments for helping us grow. How we navigate situations is more important than the outcomes of those situations. Every situation can show us  where we’re stuck (believing old conditioned thoughts or egoic ones). What matters is not whether or not we get the job, publish the book, summit the mountain, marry the person, have the kids or don’t. What matters is how we show up for those experiences.

Just because something has a rational explanation doesn’t mean the actual explanation is, in fact, rational. Click To Tweet

One cynical acquaintance said, “That was just your brain responding to you stopping medication.” And sure, that’s possible. Just because something has a rational explanation, though, doesn’t mean the actual explanation is, in fact, rational. Our human brains are too limited to ultimately know why anything happens. This experience happened more than a dozen years ago, and so far, none of the shifts in my perception have returned to where they were previously…at least, not for more than a few hours or days. I didn’t feel bliss all the time, but even in deeply challenging times, there was usually peace in the background.

These insights led to a profound transformation in my personality and way of being in the world. I’ll share those next week.

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Sarah Chauncey

For more than two decades, I struggled multiple treatment-resistant mood disorders. I spent more than 20 years in psychodynamic therapy and tried 18 different medications. In 2010, I began searching for ways to rewire my brain naturally for inner peace. I write about the practices and insights that have improved my mental, physical and spiritual health.

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