The Numinous as a Shared Phenomenon

My guess is that numinous experiences cannot be created, they simply happen when we live life to the fullest. My dear friend, Tina Devine  (poet, storyteller, and my mindfulness teacher) tells of this experience of the numinous from her childhood.

The numinous as a shared phenomenon: I recall clearly an event of this sort that happened on St. Patrick’s Day when I was 10 years old. Being Catholic, we had a holiday from school, and my friends Marlene, Irene, and I had planed to hike up in the fields at the end of our street. These stretched about a mile westward, and about 2 miles to the north. They were rolling fields, covered with dun and rust-colored grasses. We’d each packed an orange for the journey, and I carried mine in my dad’s army pack. The day was chilly, but the sun was warm. As we hiked along, we sang “The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah …….” up to ten and back again. Perhaps it was the rhythm entrainment, or maybe just the fullness of being alive, but after awhile we felt as if we’d stepped into ‘another world’ — the intensity of the colors, the feel of the air, the taste of the oranges, each other’s faces …. it felt more than we could bear. We ate our oranges, biting around the edges, sucking the juice all around, then flipping the hemispheres inside-out, and tearing the fleshy parts off. Finally, we just lay there, arms open to the sky, laughing. It was so beautiful. So intense. As if the world had sprung forth new. As if we’d sprouted there, fresh-born, right from the earth. After awhile, we settled into silence. Finally Irene whispered:” This feels like church.” “No, this is better than church,” Marlene countered. We all nodded in agreement.

 Eventually we headed home, a bit more subdued than the raucous manner in which we’d set off. Before we went in for supper, Marlene said, “Wasn’t it magic?” and with a sense of both solemnity and delight, we nodded and headed into our homes, not knowing a name for what had happened.

Tina’s story reminds me of my own experience of the numinous at the age of ten. I got off the bus one day coming home from school. Suddenly I felt a great surge of energy, an exhilaration; I started to run, I felt like I was running with  the wind. My feet barely touched the pavement, so it seemed to me. I felt like I could run forever; and do you know, I do not remember stopping! Now, as an old man of seventy, I sometimes remember that day and imagine that I can still run like the wind.

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