"Rapture was a lightness, a blissful stirring within..."
Peggy is in her early forties and is married. She works as a writer and has expanded her career to include landscape painting. She is very happy most of the time and leads a balanced life. She has a great sense of humor and lots of friends. She is self-directed and thoughtful. Because she lives where winters are cold, Peggy likes to travel to warm climates—California, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii. She also likes the snow and is learning to cross-country ski. She likes entertaining, playing games, and cooking for people. For exercise she goes power-walking in the park. (Interview: late ‘80s)
Peggy’s inner life:
The first inner experience I remember happened when I was about six. It's the best memory I have of being alive. I was standing out in a field about a block away from home. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon. I had been playing with one of my friends and she had gone home. Suddenly my awareness expanded, everything dropped away and I saw reality as it really is. The sky looked much bigger, and all the colors looked clearer. Everything looked and felt huge. I was in the middle of it all, experienced, wise. I thought not as a little child but as a wise person. I was aware of myself as a really old person in a little child's body. I'd been in existence for a long time.
Actually I was older than an old person. I was experienced and had the awareness of an experienced person. I was looking at myself as a little girl, but I knew that life was bigger than it seemed. Life was more significant and more meaningful than I'd been aware of as a six year old or a three year old. In the ongoing process of this life there was purpose connected with that bigness. The experience was a touchstone for me. I knew my life was going to have greater meaning. I experienced the seed form of something larger than changing everyday life. A wise person lived in this little body. It seemed magic but not in a fairytale way because it was real and it was breathtaking. It was quiet. Blissful. I think of it in terms of awareness more than a sensual experience. I wasn't aware of my body. The experience lasted perhaps ten minutes standing there in the field. I thought, "Ah, this is incredible." Sometimes through the years I would remember the experience and feel happy that I'd had it, but it wasn't something I thought about often.
One night I had, I guess you'd call it, an out-of-body experience. I was in bed and had already gone to sleep. Angels came in the window and pulled me up out of the body and flew up. There were three of four of them and they pulled me out from the head. They were all holding me and lifting me up. When I was up around the ceiling I remember looking down and seeing myself asleep on the bed. They took me through the open window. It was a warm summer night, I remember, because irises grew outside my window and I could smell them. There was a sweet fragrant night air feeling about it. Then they took me away someplace into the night sky. I have no memory of where they took me.
I saw the sky and all the stars. The stars were the same distance away as always. I wasn't conscious very long after they took me out the window so I don't know where we went. Even when they put me back in the body I wondered why it had happened. It seemed that I had learned a lesson. I felt more knowledgeable afterwards from having had the experience, but not from the lesson. I have no awareness of what it was. When they brought me back it was still dark outside, not yet morning, but most of the night had passed. I looked down on my body sleeping on the bed; they put me back in, and I was asleep.
I didn't think about it in the morning, but I remembered it and wondered where they had taken me. I still wish I could remember. The three or four angels had transparent light bodies I could see through. They were about seven feet tall, not giant. They were soft, gossamer creatures with a human image about their bodies, but they weren't vibrant or brightly lit in the dark. They were bluish white, and softly glowing with sparkly light emanating from the forms. They had faces but I didn't particularly notice them. There was total silence. I felt kindness and caring coming from them, but neutrality more than anything. They were on a mission, sent to get me and take me somewhere, but I knew they wouldn't have any more to do with what was going on after that. The fact that I wasn't afraid is phenomenal considering I was leaving my body behind on the bed. When they took me out I was asleep, but I wasn't dreaming. There was a sense of its happening, of some difference between dreaming and things that actually are happening. It happened. It was a neutral pleasant experience without the clarity of wakefulness because I was asleep at the time.
When I got older, thirteen or fourteen, religious life began to get enlivened. My family was religious, particularly my mother, my sister and I. We went to the Baptist Church and were strong fundamentalist, Bible beaters. I went to Bible study and was dedicated to religious life.
The last experience I recall was very simple. It started when I was around thirteen and I had it often for about three years. It was a time when I would regularly read the Bible and pray fervently for different things. Sometimes kneeling by my bed at night, praying, and sometimes sitting in church, praying or listening to music, my spine would straighten automatically and my head would go up by itself. When the spine straightened I'd feel tingling in the back of my head. It felt like somebody had stuck a rod up my spine.
After the spine got straight and the tingling reached the head, I would see white light and feel intense happiness, a feeling of well-being and light in my heart. The light would come on like an explosion but a little slower than that sounds. It would go, "Poof!" and the light would dazzle my closed eyes as if I were looking into a lightbulb or a white screen. If I opened my eyes the room would look brighter. I knew it was an innocent experience and always felt it came from God.
During the experience of my spine straightening I sometimes felt uncomfortable after the experience would be over because I didn't understand it. It was a powerful experience and I wasn't sure about it. I would both want the experience to continue because it was so blissful, yet I also didn't want it to happen. I would start to pray knowing that it might happen, but I couldn't turn it on and off at will, and sometimes I'd pray and it wouldn't happen. I wondered what it was, but I never asked anybody about it or my other inner experiences because I didn't think they would understand me or be able to help. No one had ever said anything about things like that.
I felt I was special and had a sense of having gifts. My childhood experiences have been a wonderful guiding light in my life. They are an inspiration to me whenever I have doubts or feel bad. They reassure me that there's more to life than humdrum existence. As a child I had a feeling of assurance about life, and I had a feeling of general order that I could trust in which I associated with God. Now, I am a grown-up. I work and have responsibility. I'm very happy and I meditate.
Those experiences from childhood have inspired me to look for more in life. I'm sure it will become even more important as I get older. I think it will be natural as I get wiser to focus more on spirituality and see the rest of life as less meaningful than that. My spiritual life is central but its values are integrated into my daily life. I have always had a desire to have God or experience God. In childhood that desire arose spontaneously. Now it's conscious.
More about Peggy’s childhood:
I grew up in Santa Barbara, California. There were two of us, my sister and I. She is three years older. I was a cute little girl with big white teeth. I had dark brown eyes and brown hair which I usually wore short, sometimes straight and sometimes permed by my mom. Most of the time I was happy. Some of the time I wasn't. There were some difficulties in my family, but mostly I was happy.
My parents were divorced when I was five, so when I think of our family I remember my stepfather, my mom, my sister and me. After the divorce we moved from Washington to California. I liked California so that eased the hard time and insecurity of the divorce, yet because my stepdad wasn't my natural father, I always felt a block in our relationship. I didn't feel comfortable on my summer visits to my dad either because he had also remarried.
My stepfather was an adventuresome, flamboyant guy. When he'd come home from work he’d have something for us to do instead of sitting down and having dinner like most people. One of our favorites was to go over to the beach and watch the surfers. My sister and I would play in the sand. It would be sunset. My parents would sit in the cay and talk and watch us and the surfers. Then we'd go home and have dinner.
My sister and I had a lot of freedom because my parents weren't restrictive. One time, when I was about twelve and my sister was a little older, we cooked breakfast for our parents. I cut the grapefruit with a jagged edge, and we baked little muffins. The meal tasted delicious and our parents were happy. My mother let us experiment and do things ourselves. Even if we created a disaster we got to do it.
I had an affectionate relationship with my mom. She liked to hold me on her lap and hug me. She would have liked to keep me young, and when I was about ten I rebelled at her kissing me goodnight. I felt she needed me too much.
When I was a kid I liked to do everything. I loved school, I loved recess, and I loved coming home. I played all kinds of playground sports, especially dodgeball and four-square. School gave me a focus, an outlet for my creativity and energy. I loved summer vacation and playing with my friends in the neighborhood. I was a strong leader and more aggressive than most of the other girls. I was queen of the rings and I could skip. I took it seriously and liked being active.
The most important thing to me as a kid was having fun. I liked having power, conquering life, learning new things. I liked to discover new places and went on exploration walks by myself.
My sister and I were good friends until I was about nine or ten. She taught me how to read. Sometimes being the youngest was hard, especially when we'd play games like Monopoly and she'd always win. She grew up fast and became an adult quite young and interested in boys, and after that I had trouble relating to her.
Before that she was my best friend. We would walk to a magical place of three hills, fighting our way up through a jungle of tall soft, spring green grasses and bamboo. The feeling of being there was very sweet. We lived on Cliff Drive in Santa Barbara and would crawl down a giant cliff over the rocks to play in the tide pools and build rock houses. Most people didn't go to that part of the beach because it took a hard trek to get there. I was a dare-devil but never got hurt. During the rainy season the creeks became torrents. I would crawl underneath overpasses in the rafters, sometimes by myself. It was exhilarating and I never thought of falling or being in danger. I was well-coordinated.
We did some things with our parents but my life revolved more around my friends and my sister.
I'd make up stories and tell the kids I was from a circus. I'd balance on the bars around the swings like a monkey. The most mischievous thing I ever did happened one summer when Mom was at work. I was nine and my sister was twelve. I decided I'd make a fun house like the one at the circus, sell tickets, darken the room and fill bowls with toilet paper and water like guts. I put the garden hose inside the house and turned it on. By the time we turned it off, the water was about three inches deep.
Another time I wrote, starred in and directed a play about babysitters. It was important that everything be done right—refreshments, the tickets, and the play. We invited the entire neighborhood, and our parents came. We sold popcorn and cookies, but the cookies were soggy and I was disappointed.
When I was eleven and twelve I would invent elaborate games to act out in the yard with other kids. I loved to dress up. Once I found a pink satin dress in a neighbor's garage, and wore it around for a long time. I gave myself names, Star or Ruby, usually gemstone names. I had the same best friend from second grade to junior high and was deeply loyal to her. There was always one person I was close to and I would be off and on, cool and warm, with other people.