Author Topic: "He's beginning to believe!!"  (Read 1730 times)

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Offline Boots

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"He's beginning to believe!!"
« on: September 12, 2008, 01:57:33 PM »
Warning: this is a long post, so in order to save some time, the main topic is regarding a very personal experience which may or may not relate to your own interests.  I'm basically wrestling with the question of an experience one may describe as "rapturous, spiritual, transcendental" or some other lofty term, and whether one requires belief/worship of a supernatural being to achieve such a state.  If you have no interest in this, or think that my personal (and perhaps esoteric) experiences are irrelevant to you, well then I've just saved you some time.   8)

In my pre-teen and teen years, I was a very devout Roman Catholic.  I participated in Church youth groups, attended church regularly, and eventually participated in church-based "teen weekends" where youth ministered to youth (with adult guidance) over the course of a weekend retreat.  I was very touched by these retreats, and eventually participated in the "minestarial end" of a few of them, on what they called the "team."

Team meetings happened weekly, prepping for the weekend months in advance.  Some of the team gave talks on various religious topics.  (typically "first time" team members didn't give talks)  The weekend in question--I totally don't remember the year--found me as a veteran team member, and giving a talk.  (this is important later)

Now, the opening of the weekend has the team in a big ol' room, and the parents drop off their kids for their first weekend, stick around for a while to socialize with the team and with the adult advisors, make sure their little 'uns are OK, and head out.  There are a number of small functions (mini-talks about the goals of the weekend) that first night.  But before all this, the Team has a Mass with just them involved.

It was at this Mass, just as the months of preparation were over and we were beginning our weekend, that I had what I believed at the time to be a spiritual experience.  During the mass, the priest (with whom I had a great relationship) handed out Communion to each of us.  As he got to me, he looked me in the eye and said, in his quiet and assured voice, slowly, "the body of Christ."  I felt such a huge surge of euphoria at that instant; I said "Amen!" with huge conviction (so much so that he answered me with his own "Amen!"); I felt I had literally been touched by God.  I was on a high for the rest of the night, and most of the weekend.  Later that night, in the meeting the Team had every night during the weekend, I described the feeling thusly: "All evening before the mass I'd been excited, sort of like I was running full tilt across a plain.  But when I recieved Communion from Fr. Martin, I realized that I'd been running toward a cliff--with a hang-glider on."  And I still recall that feeling of flying free on a wave of spirituality and peace.

Years passed, things changed.  I studied history in college, and in the meantime had some negative things happen to me (some involving me and the Church directly, some involving family members in the Church, others independent of religion) and I drifted away from the faith.  (I recall specifically the time I decided I was no longer a Roman Catholic, during a bible study a friend of mine brought me to--the passage in question was "I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me will never die . . ." There is no other biblical passage that could have been worse for me to hear at that time, from the perspective of keeping me in the faith; intolerance and exclusivity were huge concerns of mine, and this passage screams of both to me.)  Fairly recently (after reading this website, The God Delusion by Dawkins, and my own personal reflections) I came to the understanding that I'm at least agnostic, if not athiest.  But I never forgot that feeling I had at that mass.

It's the one thing I wasn't able to examine critically and pretty much dump in the trash can with the rest of the Catholic dogma I had readily rejected.  It's also the thing that I believe is the most powerful "weapon" in the arsenal of the faithful to defend their faith: "I've FELT God's presence!!  God SPOKE to me!!"  (One of my sisters claims that second one)

Since joining this forum, I've been thinking about this lately, and decided to try to put it to a test.  Could I achieve this state of euphoria, peace, rapture, spirituality, whatever you want to call it, absent the worship of God?  How would one go about trying?  Fortunately I have an advantage there: I study martial arts.

I'm pretty good at it too--been doing it for 27 years now (with an 8-year break in the middle there).  My favorite aspect of martial arts is kata (for those of you lay people, kata is essentially a "floor exercise" like in gymnastics: a perscribed set of moves).  I really get into kata, so I figured I could try to achieve this sense during a workout.

But as I contemplated trying this today, I realized what a disadvantage I was at now, compared to that mass on that weekend so many years ago.  On that team, I had a talk to give; I'd spent many hours thinking about what to say and how to say it; every week the team prayed together, sang together, socialized, formed a real bond; the months of preparation, the weekend consuming most (if not every) spare thought; the adrenaline of the evening, knowing the prep was over and our weekend was beginning . . . that's quite a lot of help going for a spiritual experience, wouldn't you say?  Today, I had my martial arts training, my love of kata--but I had not really done any significant mental build-up to, shall we call it, "warm up" for this moment.  Add to that the fact that I'd had no expectation of my euphoria during that weekend, and I did so now.

So as I walked to the gym, I decided on a strategy.  I figured I'd do an intense, but low-weight, workout first to get the blood flowing, get a little physical exhaustion, "dig deep" that kind of thing.  After a half hour of such, mentally focusing on "transcending the physical," I went to the side room and started in on both kata and hitting the heavy bag (which I stopped after a while because it's just too exhausting, and I wanted full faculties for the kata).

Here is where I tweaked my strategy some.  I began a mental litany of what the "ideal" or "perfect warrior" is (I listed poise, power, balance, focus, and emotion) between forms, and said over and over to myself "channel the warrior spirit; be the ideal warrior; I am Bushi (it's a nickname at the school, the Japanese word for "warrior")."

I did feel something.  Not quite the rush of euphoria as I had achieved before and had hoped to achieve again, but I certainly did notice a marked difference in the quality and passion of my kata.  My kata had always been pretty good, and pretty passionate, but simply trying to "channel the warrior spirit" gave me a large increase in power (at least it seemed so--and I have been doing this for almost 30 years, so I'm not a dummy); my focus was nearly perfect (a part of my brain still automatically "looked" at what I was doing, making sure punches/kicks are in teh right place, even though I wasn't concious of placement thus); and my balance was nothing short of outstanding (typically decent, but I nailed every one of my difficult balance moves, where I would typically make at least a slight bobble on at least one).  Never had I experienced such a performance over as many katas in succession as I experienced today.  And I wasn't conciously trying to do my forms the best I could do, as is my typical strategy; I was simply trying to BE "the perfect warrior."

What am I saying here?  While I did not get the feel-good feeling I got so many years ago, I definitely got SOMEthing.  And while it wasn't as dramatic as my teen experience was, todays, to me, is more valuable--it cracked open a door to improving my karate another level (or three) that I did not know was there.

Now, some might say that this experience proves something, and I'd agree.  It does NOT prove that god did not "touch" me as a teenager.  It does not even prove that god did not touch me today, as I was working out.  What it proves to me is that I do not need to worship a supernatural being in order to achieve spiritual harmony and to approach perfection (I will never achieve it, but striving for it is a good enough goal for me) in even one small aspect of a very important part of my life--the martial arts.

The concept of The Perfect Warrior will be different for every person--but it's exactly that, a concept.  A construct of the human imagination.  Perhaps a belief in *some*thing that is beyond a human's ability to actually achieve--The Warrior Spirit, for example--ain't such a bad thing after all.  I now feel like I can fully reject the need, or even the desire, to worship any supernatural being, because I found something special within myself this day.  I believed I could channel the Warrior Ideal and my body responded to my mind's desires.

The subject line of this post is one of my favorite lines in the movie The Matrix.  As Neo starts to run out of the subway, away from Agent Smith, Neo stops, and turns to face him.  Trinity asks "what's he doing?"  And Morpheus looks intently, with hope in his eyes, and says "He's beginning to believe!!"

What is it I'm beginning to believe?  The power of the human spirit/mind, perhaps.  Whatever it is, I like it.
* Religion: institutionalized superstition, period.

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Offline Way Of The Warrior

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2008, 02:19:20 PM »
Quote
The concept of The Perfect Warrior


Someone call ?  :D


Sorry couldnt resist, ill get my coat!
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Offline Boots

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2008, 02:32:14 PM »
Quote
The concept of The Perfect Warrior


Someone call ?  :D


Sorry couldnt resist, ill get my coat!

BUDOOOOOO!!!!
* Religion: institutionalized superstition, period.

"Many of my ultra-conservative Republican friends...have trouble accepting the idea God is not a Republican. " ~OldChurchGuy

"We humans may never figure out the truth, but I prefer trying to find it over pretending we know it."  ~ParkingPlaces

Offline john

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2008, 04:12:43 PM »
I've had exactly the same sort of experiences in my own martial arts training, particularly while working on kata.  We would occasionally practice our katas in the "ju" form (easy) with open palms, slow movements, narrower stances, and no stops between moves.  This had the immediate training benefit is learning to focus on the flow of the kata rather than what I will call the "points" - (attacks and blocks that punctuate each move).  It would also, however, be a very powerful contemplative experience.

This sense of transcendence, elevated consciousness, or powerful sense of otherness is described in a great many contemplative traditions, some of them having nothing at all to do with God or the supernatural.  There has been some research on the subject, involving the stimulation of the right temporal lobe of the brain, wherein many subjects have reported an experience of transcendence, the presence of God, aliens, etc.  Religious concepts appear to the the intellectual hook on which humans hang the significance of such an experience, but as you have demonstrated, the experience itself transcends even religion.

I think the phenomenon is quite interesting, powerfully relevant to the human experience, entirely natural, and certainly worthy of exploration.
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Offline Hermes

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2008, 05:03:24 PM »
Boots, excellent post.  (Makes me want to go down and 'get in the zone' on my speed and body bags in the basement.)  There is definitely something to what you say. 

Consider taking a look at Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  It may help understand intellectually what happened.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2008, 06:01:01 PM »
I get the "high" in many ways.

Seeing my granddaughter.

Watching the sun rise or set.

Golfing although sometimes I feel like I'm in hell.

Reading Ken Follect

Sex.
The whole point of science is that most of it is uncertain. That's why science is exciting--because we don't know. Science is all about things we don't understand. The public, of course, imagines science is just a set of facts. But it's not.  Freeman Dyson

Offline Boots

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2008, 09:39:41 PM »
John--nice to see a fellow martial artist on the boards, and one who really "gets it."  If you ever want to swap stories re: karate, PM me!

Hermes--"the zone" is an excellent way to describe it.  I've been there before, but this was a much fuller experience.  Funny, but I was about to stop when the Beetles' "Come Together' came on, so I had to continue.   :D  Anyhoo, thanks for the recommendation--I'll have to look that up.  Go hit the bags, bro!!

I get the "high" in many ways.

Seeing my granddaughter.

Watching the sun rise or set.

Golfing although sometimes I feel like I'm in hell.

Reading Ken Follect

Sex.

bgb--I get there with sex too, but it's not a concious effort as today's experience was (although I imagine that means sex is even better?  wonder if the wife'll buy that).  Your golf comment is frickin' hilarious.
* Religion: institutionalized superstition, period.

"Many of my ultra-conservative Republican friends...have trouble accepting the idea God is not a Republican. " ~OldChurchGuy

"We humans may never figure out the truth, but I prefer trying to find it over pretending we know it."  ~ParkingPlaces

Offline Mar

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2008, 10:01:33 PM »
I get the feeling from:

1. Lucid dreaming (Basically, controlling your dreams)

2. Meditating

3. Looking at nature (the sky, grass, trees, flowers, etc.)

4. Being around people who care about me (especially when we are celebrating an event like New Year's)

5. Walking

6.  Dancing

7. Tae Kwon Do (when I was in it)

8. Listening to music (Music is one of the easiest ways for me to go into a euphoric state. If anyone wants some music recommendations, PM me.)

Putting yourself in a state of euphoria is completely psychological. It has nothing to do with belief in a God.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2008, 10:05:50 PM by Mar »
On Permanent Hiatus. :D

Offline essgeeskee

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2008, 04:37:54 AM »
I get the feeling after:

An intense workout.

I workout pretty hard 5 days a week and the feeling I get afterward is like WOW!!

I've never gotten this feeling through any religious experience though.

When I dumped religion 3 years ago and started to really take care of my body, I've felt better than ever!
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Offline InvisiblePinkUnicorn

Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2009, 10:30:20 AM »
Is everyone leaving sex of the list on purpose?
All edits in my posts are for typo correction unless otherwise explicitly stated.

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Offline Boots

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2009, 11:47:57 AM »
Is everyone leaving sex of the list on purpose?

bgb and I *both* mention sex!!  Does it have to come in threes or more??   ;D
* Religion: institutionalized superstition, period.

"Many of my ultra-conservative Republican friends...have trouble accepting the idea God is not a Republican. " ~OldChurchGuy

"We humans may never figure out the truth, but I prefer trying to find it over pretending we know it."  ~ParkingPlaces

Offline Astreja

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2009, 11:09:30 PM »
I've got a few years in the martial arts, but haven't quite hit that zone.  Perhaps another ten or fifteen years, and 10,001 attempts at Heian Shodan...

Now, music, on the other hand -- That's taken me places.

There's a handful of much-loved songs that consistently put me in an elevated and focused state of mind, but the most memorable and extraordinary experiences have happened at live shows.

1.  Winnipeg Symphony and Winnipeg Singers performing Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, back in (I think) 1982.  The final section of the symphony/cantata, "Alexander's Entry into Pskov", is an incredible, soaring piece of music... I get chills down my spine just thinking about it.

2.  A few years ago, I saw jazz vocalist Kurt Elling for the first time... He introduced "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" with some throat-singing that any shaman could be justly proud of.  (Imagine the sound of a didgeridoo, without an instrument.) I was sitting at the back of the hall, spellbound, waves of sound crashing into me.

3.  And in '93, I played a concert with my own band.  While covering the Renaissance song "I Think of You," I managed to grab the entire room with my voice. It felt as if I was everywhere at once, with time standing still.

I've played various instruments since 1965, which gives me nearly 45 years as a musician; but only recently have I managed to get a handle on actual musicianship.  Currently my instrument of choice is clarinet,  which I've only been playing for 3½ years.  When I practice, I've been trying to pay attention to fine details such as the vibration of the reed or the tension in a knuckle or the air pressure under my fingers.  The more mindful the playing, the more satisfying the practice and the more durable the results.  I've become convinced that relaxed attention, with no background chatter, is one of the keys that unlock the feeling. 


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Offline Boots

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2009, 07:59:03 AM »
3.  And in '93, I played a concert with my own band.  While covering the Renaissance song "I Think of You," I managed to grab the entire room with my voice. It felt as if I was everywhere at once, with time standing still.

awesome.  I'm jealous (besides the fact that I can't sing)


Quote
I've played various instruments since 1965, which gives me nearly 45 years as a musician; but only recently have I managed to get a handle on actual musicianship.  Currently my instrument of choice is clarinet,  which I've only been playing for 3½ years.  When I practice, I've been trying to pay attention to fine details such as the vibration of the reed or the tension in a knuckle or the air pressure under my fingers.  The more mindful the playing, the more satisfying the practice and the more durable the results.  I've become convinced that relaxed attention, with no background chatter, is one of the keys that unlock the feeling. 


Interesting observation.  From my personal experience, you need to be familiar enough with the details of what your doing in order to not think about them conciously (muscle memory).  I believe I shall attempt your method when I next get the chance!
* Religion: institutionalized superstition, period.

"Many of my ultra-conservative Republican friends...have trouble accepting the idea God is not a Republican. " ~OldChurchGuy

"We humans may never figure out the truth, but I prefer trying to find it over pretending we know it."  ~ParkingPlaces

Offline bikerbabe

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2009, 09:58:16 AM »
How do we know that with higher illumination of the mind it does not mean that it is actually a closeness with the God? Why are we so quick to just write it off as being a mental phenomenon. Why not a spiritual phenomenon?
Why not look beyond the border?

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2009, 10:04:24 AM »
How do we know that with higher illumination of the mind it does not mean that it is actually a closeness with the God? Why are we so quick to just write it off as being a mental phenomenon. Why not a spiritual phenomenon?
Why not look beyond the border?

Is the existance of what we can observe made easier or harder to explain by suggesting the existance of things we cannot observe?

Easier, or harder?
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Offline Star Stuff

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2009, 10:09:02 AM »
Why not look beyond the border?

There is no "border".  Science is open to ALL observable phenomena.

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Offline bikerbabe

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2009, 11:52:00 AM »
Why not look beyond the border?

There is no "border".  Science is open to ALL observable phenomena.


Illumination of the mind by drugs or other means is not observable.

Offline Cycle4Fun

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2009, 11:54:24 AM »
I get the feeling after:

An intense workout.

I workout pretty hard 5 days a week and the feeling I get afterward is like WOW!!

Endorphins are awesome.  I've often pushed my body beyond the ability of the endorphins to block out the pain and utter exhaustion.  Those times when you are right at the cusp make you feel euphoric.
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Offline Hermes

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Re: "He's beginning to believe!!"
« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2009, 12:09:54 PM »
Why not look beyond the border?

There is no "border".  Science is open to ALL observable phenomena.

Illumination of the mind by drugs or other means is not observable.

Not that there is any illumination from drugs, but as for examination and reading thoughts, why are you so sure that is not possible?  After all, it has been done in part last year;

Quote
Scientists extract images directly from brain



Researchers from Japan’s ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories have developed new brain analysis technology that can reconstruct the images inside a person’s mind and display them on a computer monitor, it was announced on December 11. According to the researchers, further development of the technology may soon make it possible to view other people’s dreams while they sleep.

The scientists were able to reconstruct various images viewed by a person by analyzing changes in their cerebral blood flow. Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, the researchers first mapped the blood flow changes that occurred in the cerebral visual cortex as subjects viewed various images held in front of their eyes. Subjects were shown 400 random 10 x 10 pixel black-and-white images for a period of 12 seconds each. While the fMRI machine monitored the changes in brain activity, a computer crunched the data and learned to associate the various changes in brain activity with the different image designs.

Then, when the test subjects were shown a completely new set of images, such as the letters N-E-U-R-O-N, the system was able to reconstruct and display what the test subjects were viewing based solely on their brain activity.

For now, the system is only able to reproduce simple black-and-white images. But Dr. Kang Cheng, a researcher from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, suggests that improving the measurement accuracy will make it possible to reproduce images in color.

“These results are a breakthrough in terms of understanding brain activity,” says Dr. Cheng. “In as little as 10 years, advances in this field of research may make it possible to read a person’s thoughts with some degree of accuracy.”

The researchers suggest a future version of this technology could be applied in the fields of art and design — particularly if it becomes possible to quickly and accurately access images existing inside an artist’s head. The technology might also lead to new treatments for conditions such as psychiatric disorders involving hallucinations, by providing doctors a direct window into the mind of the patient.

ATR chief researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani says, “This technology can also be applied to senses other than vision. In the future, it may also become possible to read feelings and complicated emotional states.”

The research results appear in the December 11 [2008]  issue of US science journal Neuron.
Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons. --Michael Shermer

The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.  --Sir James George Frazer