In an earlier post I said I’d had 3 spiritual experiences that stand out in my memory. There I gave details of the first experience which happened when I was 19 years old.

Second experience: Meet the void

After Army lab school I’d worked in the clinical chemistry lab for the rest of my 3-year enlistment. After I got out of the Army I took a 6-month trip around the U.S. and decided to live in Arizona. Using the GI Bill I was able, with part-time work, to get a degree in medical technology. I had been working in microbiology for a few years when I had my second experience.

At that time I was reading books on a variety of philosophies and trying them on hit and miss. I mixed this in with just trying to have a good time and not doing a very good job of that. I had read something about sitting quietly and just watching my breath, so one day I tried it. Shortly after sitting on the floor and beginning this process I had the experience of being immersed in an immense black void like in outer space, but with no light. I was comfortable, alone yet there was a presence in the void, or the presence was the void. I had total peace and felt like all questions were answered, all problems resolved. There was no sense of time passing, but I don’t think the experience lasted long. This experience had no external manifestation like my first one. I didn’t continue with any form of meditation or make any other changes as a result of the experience. But the sense of it has remained a benchmark for me of what is real and most important.

Third experience: With me from the beginning

It was not long after the experience with the void that I decided to enlist again in the Army. It may seem crazy and it probably was. After another round of Basic Training I was stationed in Missouri working in microbiology in a hospital lab. I enjoyed this assignment.

I hadn’t attended church since those few years attending the Catholic Church, but shortly after I arrived at this first assignment, I joined a small group of Christians who met in a home. For the first time I began reading the Bible regularly. I was reading in John where Jesus was talking and says “… because you have been with me from the beginning.” Suddenly I was grabbed by that phrase. I closed my eyes and felt like I was being drawn into a tunnel of time and space to the very beginning of everything and found that I was there from the beginning. It felt real and like an ultimate sense of belonging. I’m home! I’ve always been home! It took my breath away.


It’s been nearly 50 years since that last experience. The awe and gratitude I felt then has not diminished. It once seemed like something outside myself caused these things. Now I feel that the cause of them was inside myself. As an ordinary individual, messed up with what had happened in life to that point, I was experiencing what is hidden inside me. I think I’m not alone; we are all much more than we see. As Thomas Merton wrote: “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

I seek a practice that opens me to this reality in myself and therefore in others. I’m not looking for awesome experiences. I never was looking for that; they just happened.