I am a feel-good junkie.
And I am not alone. Studies show that people with substance abuse problems usually show problems early in life with delayed gratification, discipline, self-control, etc.
In other words, we want what we want–and we want it NOW.
When I find something that feels good, my first thought is usually “Where can I get more and how quickly?”
In the eternal words of Calvin and Hobbes, “Happiness is not enough! I demand EUPHORIA!”
Or, ecstasy will do.
I read a definition of ecstasy as a state in “one in which man’s spirit is caught up to the most immediate union with the divine”. I agree with that.
My relationship with Ecstasy has changed over the years.
My first experience with Ecstasy was taking a cruise on the Carnival Cruise ship of the same name. I was nine. I wouldn’t say anything about the experience was too ecstatic, but sneaking into the casino onboard and playing with the slot machines was fun.
My second experience with Ecstasy was taking the drug, Ecstasy. This occurred several timed during my senior year of high school and the summer directly following. Again, I wouldn’t describe any of those experiences as ecstatic. Was I high? Sure. Did it feel good? Yup. But I didn’t feel ecstatic.
I have had three experiences that I would consider truly ecstatic experiences. They all happened while I was clean and sober.
My first real ecstatic experience happened -where else-on Phish tour. Dancing at a Phish concert is one of my “happy places”. It is a spiritual experience for me. As I focus on the music, I give myself up to something larger than myself. I forget to worry about my wants and my worries. Self seeking slips away. I am fully in the moment, fully present, and joy and gratitude fill my entire body. I am so happy. I have had many pre-ecstatic experiences at my 98 phish shows, but the truly ecstatic experiences were fundamentally different.
It occurred in Ohio last summer. I was dancing with friends in the sunken walkway between two sections of seats in the venue. It was dark, and sweaty, and people were throwing down. Bodies were everywhere, and the air was so wet and hot it felt like I was swimming. The feeling that came over me really cannot be described, Words are mere suggestions at what it was actually like. I suddenly felt that I was animal, blood and bone and spit and sex. Raw and primal and tribal. I was connected to these people around me. We were pack mates. Divinity was immanent in us and expressed through us. We were powerful and vital. My head felt like it cracked open like a raw, runny egg. I may have howled. I am sure if you had asked my name I wouldn’t have been able to answer.
The second time this happened was also at a Phish show, just a couple of months later. I was dancing, with friends, and this time the energy vibrated much higher. Where last time it has been very primal and raw, this time it felt very uplifted (I was in Denver, the Mile High City!). I remember it swooping down on me all of a sudden, and I jumped up and down several times. I believe I cried out. I felt fireworks go off in my head. I know it happened just as the song ended and I stood there with my head in my hands and cried tears of wonder. I had been directly connected to the divine, a deep soul kiss, a searing exposure.
I became introduced to the Reclaiming tradition of Witchcraft late in 2012. I attended their Samhain ritual and it was during the power raising that I tasted a little bit of the feeling I so often get at concerts. Then, at the Yule celebration, I had a full on ecstatic experience. We had been singing for several minutes, and I admit I was starting to feel a little disappointed. That inner voice was going, “that feeling isn’t happening.” At that point one of the women in the group motioned for all of us to take the hands of the people standing next to us. We gathered into a circle and raised our joined hands to the sky, still singing. Suddenly, I felt it float down on me, gently, like feathers–ecstasy. It felt like the softest of down, like champagne bubbles, like snowflakes. My heart felt full of candlelight and silent, watery beauty.
Each of these experiences was so different. One was raw and primal, another energetic, another calm and soft. But they each left me with clear sense of being touched. Those experiences and the energy that ran through them felt fundamentally different than anything I had experienced before.
I hope to have more of these experiences, and one of the main reasons I am attracted to Reclaiming Witchcraft is because it bills itself an ecstatic tradition. I want those experiences. I daresay that I need them. I am naturally wired as the kind of person who seeks transcendent experiences. That is why in my pre-recovery life I was so attracted to using LSD, mushrooms, and other drugs. But in my clean & sober life, I need healthy ways to have those experiences. I’ve found those through music and witchcraft.
Next week, I will write about why I think ecstatic experiences are useful.