Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Glimpses Beyond the Veil

    We label "fanatics" others who are enthusiastic about experiences we've never enjoyed. We can't imagine ourselves ever doing certain things like them eg climbing Everest, assume we'll never get to experience whatever lures them to extreme adventures, and quickly dismiss it as "madness."
    Early in her fascinating book, Maria Coffey wonders, “Was it possible … that as these adventurers tune into the natural world, they unwittingly open channels to hidden powers and realms of experience that we call mystical and paranormal? That these channels lie dormant in us all, shut down beneath layers of insulation? And that the process of risk-taking strips away that insulation, opening the way to spiritual transcendence?
    … I became increasingly convinced that extreme adventurers break the boundaries of what is deemed physically possible by pushing beyond human consciousness into another realm.
    reaching a spiritual state of being is the principal lure of extreme adventure
Coffey. “Explorers of the Infinite. The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes – and What They Reveal About Near-Death Experiences, Psychic Communications, and Touching the Beyond.” Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, 2008.

    There are of course many other, more direct, more efficient & infinitely safer ways ("to the top of the mountain") of reaching spiritual states of being than via extreme sports. One of the wildest danger addicts, Kristen Ulmer - for 12 years was the best female big mountain extreme skier in the world; voted by the outdoor industry as the most extreme 'fearless' woman athlete in North America - finally realized that it didn't make sense to continuously risk her life for something better achieved through well-established spiritual practices, which for her happens to be Zen meditation.

    Kristen Ulmer. “The Art of Fear: Why Conquering Fear Won’t Work and What to Do Instead.” Harper Wave, 2018.

    Nevertheless, Coffey's book is inspiring & insightful, filled with heroic yearning & striving often required to pull oneself out from the powerful gravitational pull of comfort & conformity. With apologies to Star Trek, let us boldly read about where few men & women have gone before!:

    “In 1993, Marshall Ulrich was running the Badwater course ("for ultra-marathoners, the toughest race of all"), trying to break his own record. He set out at six pm, watched the sun go down, and carried on running into the night. At some point, around the forty-mile mark, he felt himself leave his body. Suddenly the effort of running was gonefrom above, he watched his lone figure pounding along the road, he could hear his footfall and see his support team waiting at certain stages with food and water. He saw himself eating and drinking as he ran.
    ‘It was like watching myself on a movie screen,’ he says. ‘I lost all sense of time. It could have been only ten minutes that had passed, but then I realized that dawn was coming, the sun was about to rise. I knew it was time to go back into my body.’
    He was reluctant to tell anyone about this, particularly other runners. ‘I was sure they’d think I was nutty.’ Then he met Yiannis Kouros, the legendary, world-record-breaking Greek ultramarathoner, who now lives in Australia. Kouros is unabashed about the spiritual component to his running.
    ‘It is not easy,’ he writes, ‘to grasp what is taking place in the mind and the soul, in the senses and beyond the senses of a runner due to the refusal of the body. Only if the runner achieves his transcendence, and especially in the metaphysical level, he is then able to continue.’
    When he heard Ulrich’s story, he fully understood. And he told him how to get back to that place.
    ‘He said I have to break myself down until there’s nothing leftuntil I transcend the limits of my physical body and enter a new realm of existence.

We must live in the free fall of infinity. Standing at the edge, the heart opens." Thomas Moore

It is often the hardest, most challenging experiences of our lives that crack us open. For some people, these experiences are chosen, or accepted as a consequence of risk-taking. For others – for most of us – they come without warning. Unlikely gifts that rip away our layers of insulation, allowing us glimpses of the mysterious, the ineffable – the infinite realms of human consciousness.

for the finale, Coffey recounts her own dramatic near-death experience (NDE) - her own glimpse 'beyond the veil' past our consentual, mundane, physical reality to the transcendent, helping her grok the insights of extreme adventurers & many, many others.
Coffey. “Explorers of the Infinite. The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes – and What They Reveal About Near-Death Experiences, Psychic Communications, and Touching the Beyond.” Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, 2008.

 Short (8min) Oscar-nominated Canadian film "The Flying Sailor" about a real person in Halifax :

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