Over the years in Subud I've had quite a few unusual experiences, but the one that for me stands head and shoulders above them all is the most simple or basic. I was opened in London in 1972 when I was 18 and a 'long-haired hippie'! To my blinkered perception, the other members in the group were basically very 'straight,' middle-aged people with whom I felt no particular connection. I was very happy to go to latihan and leave straightaway as I wasn't interested in socialising. On this particular evening, a few weeks after being opened, I came out of the latihan hall and looked over at a group of members who were having tea and chatting. At that moment, I was flooded with such an overwhelming feeling of love and oneness with these people, which was as astonishing as it was unexpected. At that moment the thought presented itself to me, 'this movement can change the world,' and I knew that this was the reality. I also saw with astonishing clarity the sheer prejudice and superficiality of my former perceptions of my fellow brothers and sisters and the degree to which the latihan had cut through all this to the essential truth of human nature - that we are all one.
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The Ramadan fast has always been a time of great blessings for me and I have had some unusual experiences during this time. One year, I remember, I was walking back up the hill leading to our house and suddenly I was positioned across the street and looking at myself. This is difficult to describe but 'I' saw that this person was walking in a slightly stooped manner as if carrying a heavy weight and there was an experience of an incredible feeling of pure compassion towards this person and the thought 'you can let go of that burden you are carrying.' This external consciousness was very wide - as though life were looking at itself in the form of this figure walking up the hill; the love was indescribable. This probably only lasted for a second or two - time is meaningless in this context - but it was one of the clearest experiences I have had around the separation or difference between what I call the 'little me' and the 'big me.'
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My experiences over the years show me that as we make progress in the latihan [or our spiritual lives] the 'big me,' meaning our true or original nature, is increasingly able to influence and guide the 'little me,' i.e., our conditioned personality, and in a sense all the experiences I have had relate to this fact. In many ways it is the most mundane manifestations of this that are the most significant. As an example, I am one of those people who really hates queues and on this particular morning I was in a hurry and stuck in a line at the local post office. To make matters worse we were all being held up by a woman trying to send a parcel abroad without a proper address and a man behind the counter who didn't appear to have the most basic idea of how to deal with the situation. This was of course pushing all my buttons and I was somewhat 'hot.' Suddenly, instantaneously and completely out of the blue, my world transformed, and it was as if I was taking part in the most compelling play and I was feeling or experiencing how all my fellow players were feeling and thinking: I could see that the woman trying to post the parcel was feeling bad because of the queue behind her, the counter clerk was feeling frustrated and so on. In addition I was experiencing a great joy - the post office itself had become transformed and everything glowed with rich colours and again the experience of love and gratitude for everyone taking part in the Play Of My Life at that point in time! Now, what was really interesting to me about this experience was not the experience itself, but the fact that it came about totally spontaneously and without any awareness on my part that I was in a bad state or any wish, let alone initiative, to change that! In other words the 'big me' was able to subdue [or influence] the 'little me' without any effort of thought or will. I have had more profound examples of this in life-threatening circumstances but I think the simple examples are the more useful illustration!
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Probably the most sublime experience I have had occurred during the Fast one year after about a week of rain and storms. I had just dropped my car off at the garage for its annual inspection and decided to go for a walk along the river to kill time. Just then the sun came out and suddenly I stepped into a different world and for about the next hour I experienced such beauty that I was unable to keep from weeping with joy whilst walking along the [luckily little-used!] road. Words will always fail us at the point of trying to capture this feeling, but that night I wrote a factual account of this walk in the form of free verse;
It’s interesting how walking can seem to be at the point of equilibrium between exertion and rest, doing and not doing.
The river, swollen by the rains, hurries desperately to join the sea and for a moment I am carried in light-hearted glee on the dizzying foam. The divided longs to be whole.
As the sun breaks through the clouds my world explodes in joyous illumination and becomes as first-seen, a homecoming, a return to the honeyed garden of childhood.
There is an emotion at the point of equilibrium between joy and sorrow. It is a blissful sadness that wounds with divine mercy, with purifying tears, with a yearning for the sea. It is the river’s laughter.
I walk a child’s path and marvel at the intensity of being, each object saturated with its own essence, glorious in its existence - all proclaiming that bliss is the ground of all. And in the hills and the shadows of trees thrown against the sun-dappled grass and the leaves against the blue of the sky there is another world, an Arcadian vision that was lost and is now re-found. There is something of dreams in this - each sight presented demands my complete attention and unfolds its own world. There are no more choices and there is no history - only constant renewal, an ever-unfolding newness. I follow and am renewed.
I walk a watery course at the point of equilibrium between form and formlessness, propelled toward a wider horizon where the sun gleams on the flood plain and the boundaries are dissolving in light. The wintry sun is low in the sky and fills my senses.
I hear a child laughing.
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There is no doubt in my mind that Subud achieves for us in an instant all that we aspired to in the Bennett days in the 1950s. Just think of having a connection with your body. After a latihan one can quite naturally feel 'present' in a way that we used to strive for. Whereas back then we tried to remember ourselves on the hour, sometimes now the feeling of the latihan just steals up on us and, while watching TV perhaps, we suddenly feel present within our own bodies.
We used to fight against expressing negative emotions. Now I want to shout Hallelujah and express thanks in every possible way, even just by chatting to people in the supermarket. I feel positive emotions spontaneously.
All that Gurdjieff work was a wonderful preparation for understanding what Subud is about. In the spiritual world we cannot 'do' anything. In the world of our accessories we have to strive to improve them all the time. About God and spiritual matters it is impossible and useless for us to think. But in the outer world we need to do everything to improve and refine our intellects.
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Last week’s stories called to mind an experience I had just a few years ago, but which I’d forgotten about completely and have never shared with anyone.
I was standing idly looking out of the window of my ground floor apartment one sunny morning when a young woman, about 30 years old perhaps, walked by. I am by no means unsusceptible to feminine beauty and in normal
circumstances I might well have been bowled over by the vision of female
perfection that strolled slowly into my field of vision. She was totally gorgeous: smiling, graceful, lovely to look at, elegantly dressed and with a figure to die for; she would have been entirely at home in the pages of a fashion magazine – or indeed on the silver screen.
Before I could descend into drooling mode, however, I was completely taken over by what your last week’s contributor would have called my ‘big me.’ I was immediately possessed, in other words, by what I can only call a state of Grace, one in which I gazed upon the young woman with total equanimity and a benign detachment.
As with your earlier contributor, the striking thing was that this blessed condition arose entirely unbidden, not at all in response to an impulse of awareness or a prayer for protection. In other words, it was a spontaneous inner insulation from my less noble characteristics. After the woman had passed by, I found myself carried away, not by a helpless longing for a beautiful member of the opposite sex, but by the spiritual afterglow of a much higher Presence.
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One evening I was driving home after latihan when suddenly I had this vision. In it I saw myself visiting different Subud groups and meeting people. It was obvious that I had some Subud function and that that was why I was visiting these groups. Also, the people I saw in the vision looked English to me. I am not English, and at the time I was living very far away from England. Strange, I thought, and I wondered when - and if - this receiving would materialize.
Years later, I unexpectedly moved to England and in due course became a National Helper there. I remember clearly the first time I went on a group visit to one of the groups in my region. Before latihan I found myself surrounded by Subud brothers and chatting to them. Suddenly all of this seemed so familiar to me. It was then that I remembered the vision I'd had, which had been nine years earlier, and I realised that in the vision I had seen this very scene of me chatting to my brothers in this particular Subud group.
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About six years ago I was working abroad while my family stayed in England. One morning I woke up around 4 am and found myself in that state between being awake and being asleep which makes us particularly receptive to experiences.
I then had the peculiar experience that I could see 360 degrees around me, although it was dark in the room and I couldn't distinguish much. After a while I saw something behind me and coming towards me from a distance. First it looked like a white stick, but when it came closer I could clearly see that it was the forearm and hand of a child. The hand then gently patted me on my back. I immediately switched to being fully awake and I realised who this hand belonged to. It was my young daughter's, without a doubt. Ever since my daughter was a toddler, she'd had the habit of sometimes gently patting me on the back, in a particular manner.
The next day the same thing happened, also at 4 am.
That day I rang my wife and told her about the experiences. She then told me that the last two days my daughter had really missed me and she'd cried herself to sleep.
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When I was in labour with my first son Malcolm, I was holding onto my husband's hand very tightly as the contractions became stronger and more frequent. I felt out of control and kept telling my husband I loved him; I felt love was the only thing that kept me strong and patient at the time. When one of the contractions came, shortly before the arrival of our son, I looked up at my husband and felt that he was 56 years old. I wondered why I thought he was much older when he looked even younger than his real age. At the same time I felt that something huge and of great consequence was going to happen in 16 years time, when our son would be 16 and my husband 56. I opened my eyes wide with worry and asked my husband to hold me tight, and I just had to tell him straight away. I told him I was scared he might die during that year, and I was afraid of what would happen then. My husband replied that I should not worry, that maybe it was something big but good; surely it didn't have to be something bad! He looked sad and I felt very sad.
He became 56 in February 2011 and Malcolm became 17 in August. During those six months I kept thinking about my (our) experience and praying my husband would be safe and in good health. In June I was in China, and one night my dead grandmother appeared next to my bed. She spoke in a language I could not understand and I felt very worried. I asked her to try and speak my language, but all I could understand was that she was warning me about something. I knew it was related to Malcolm but when I called him that evening he said everything was fine. Then, two weeks after his 17th birthday, he told me his girlfriend was pregnant. We worked out that she’d got pregnant the weekend I saw my grandmother in China.
Although a shock to us all, I thank God that He's sent us a new family member. I give thanks for my husband is well.
During my life I have not been sure that things are really "meant to happen" - how could everything be already planned? - but this is one of those events that makes you think again.
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After my last email to you, a lot has happened. The most important event of all is the arrival of Oliver Kai. He was born on Thursday, 15 March, exactly 39 weeks after my experience in China on Thursday, 16 June. We're all very happy. This little chap has brought much joy and a feeling of unity to both families.
He's a very peaceful child, rarely cries and expresses himself by other means, such as sucking his whole hand when hungry. Interestingly I found that the name relates to offering an olive branch which is a symbol of peace. My son said he felt that was the name for this child and could not agree to any other. They couldn't think of a girl's name either.
Kerry, his mother, had several "strange" experiences while pregnant and the week before Oliver was born she saw many little stars in the room that suddenly moved and enveloped her and Malcolm who was by her side. She was scared, but Malcolm felt very happy about her experience; he hugged her and told her it was a good sign. Here I must mention that Kerry knows little about Subud and Malcolm has not been opened.
The day he was being born I managed to go to sleep at 3 a.m., only to be woken up at 4.03 by a loud alarm clock inside myself. It was one of those old fashioned clocks with two little bells on the sides. I could not think where the noise was coming from since our actual alarms nowadays are digital radios or mobile phones. Thinking I had dreamed the sound, I tried to go back to sleep but as soon as I closed my eyes there it was again. I panicked and began to pray for the health of the baby.
I got up and went to a quiet room to do latihan and before it started I got a text from my son, telling me the baby's heart rate had dropped and that Kerry was being transferred to Gloucester Hospital. I was almost in tears and felt I had to receive the latihan for as long as it would last. Nearly an hour later my latihan stopped, and once again I got a message from my son telling me Kerry was being monitored in hospital.
Oliver was born safely, and the parents have refused any vaccines, vitamin K or any other measures the doctors have suggested. I am very proud of the way they are handling the whole situation. They seem to know exactly what needs to be done and are very much in tune with each other. As a mother it is very pleasant to see. Personally I feel they are a lesson, both for me and for many others who succumb to medical authority, to fears of criticism, to peer and family pressure, etc. From the beginning they knew they could not say no to this child and have followed their instincts all along. How brave!
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