I had an experience.
It happened while bartending. Over 12 years ago.
The bar I worked in had a cigarette machine in the back. The bartenders were told to keep an eye out for under-18 teens sneaking in to get cigarettes.
One night three young-looking guys walked in and headed toward the cigarettes. I stopped them to check their I.D.s.
I looked at the I.D.s but my mind got dizzy and I couldn’t make sense of how to figure out their ages (this mind dizziness still happens, especially with numbers. doesn’t bother me too much. But it used to).
I tried but couldn’t make my brain work and I felt a wave of panic. The guys were staring at me, waiting. I had to go find my shift manager for help. When I asked my manager to look at the I.D. cards, he looked at me like I was crazy. Yes, they are 18, he said, annoyed at me.
As I walked back to hand them their cards and saw the expression on their faces, I felt the shame intensify and engulf me. And then the experience happened.
I suddenly became bigger than myself. I expanded to about 6 feet bigger all around my body. I watched from this bigger space, somewhat above myself, yet everywhere at the same time. From that bigger space I watched myself being embarrassed and hand the I.D.s back.
But as I watched I was unattached from it all. Just fascinated by what was happening.
Unattached might give the impression of flatness. It was not flat at all. It was magical and joyful. It was total and pure curiosity (not an analytical curiosity, but a “see what happens” curiosity).
I was free from the need to control or direct anything, including myself or what I was feeling.
The whole experience must have lasted only a few moments. But it felt longer, like it happened in slow motion.
For the following few days I felt peaceful and then the peacefulness faded and I went back to my usual inner turmoil. If anything, feeling even more unsatisfied.
In the back of my mind I was wishing I could find a way to make that experience happen again. I sensed this to be the way out of suffering. But I couldn’t figure out how to do that. Because I didn’t make it happen to begin with.
It was a completely spontaneous experience. I wasn’t really meditating or doing dedicated inner work at the time. I was actually working 3 jobs, barely sleeping, and living off Redbull. I was saving money for my “dream” of traveling the world.
I had been reading books on how to make your dreams come true, visualizing, etc. I couldn’t think of a dream that would make me happy except traveling. So I decided for a little while, with nothing else to go on, that traveling the world must be my dream. As usual for me back then, I was focused outside of myself and on the future (I thought that's where 'happy' must exist). I was ignoring what was right in front of me and within me.
Even though my life didn't immediately change much on the surface, that experience was a glimpse of a truth for me.
That glimpsed truth was that I am not my body, my mind, or my emotions. There is something else to who I am.
I recognized this something else as what teachers and mystics call witnessing awareness. I've heard descriptions of this witness being a non-judgmental awareness of all that is, and that it is full of joy. That sounded exactly like what happened for me.
I never had anything like that experience again until I did travel, but not the outer world, I shifted my search inward, traveling instead through my inner world. Instead of making my dreams come true, I started seeing the untruth in the dream I had been living in.
As I began peeling away the layers of my unconscious, the experience of expanding beyond my mind, emotions, and body, and witnessing have become regular occurrences.
Leela Haris - Expanding Consciousness