1) I assume that your communication with Holy Spirit began with meditation? Could you describe this in more detail?
2) In the beginning did you use any aids, such as music or spoken word? How long after beginning did you (weeks, months, years?) before O->(n).
3) Do you think this is available to everybody, or is it more of a gift or talent?
4) Is an atheist New Ager who meditates and claims to be enlightened accessing the same O->(n), or is there a dark side to this practice?
Starting with question one, the answer is Yes and No. I would say that formal communication with the Holy Spirit began with meditation (and of course it is the HS that is communicating with us, not vice versa; we are just opening ourselves to, and co-upperating with, it).
To continue with the meditation part, I began meditating in 1995, and continued doing so on a daily basis -- same time, same place -- for a full ten years. Then my son was born, and it unalterably changed the routine around here. A new phase began, which was the blog.
I'm sure I've spoken of this meditation practice before, but it was in the specific context of being an informal disciple of Sri Aurobindo. The technique was easy, so it was very much compatible with my personality style: 1) silence the mind, and 2) open oneself to the descent of the grace. There was no "self effort" at all; rather, it was entirely (as the Buddhists say) "other powered."
This appealed to me because I had actually experimented with various forms of meditation for many years prior to this, and really gotten nowhere (I can't say I was ever very disciplined about it).
In this regard, I had been trying to be a do-it-yoursopher, almost treating it as a scientific technique to transcend the ego and vault myself into a higher dimension or something. But this new way involved an implicit recognition that I myself could get nowhere, and that I had to surrender to a higher power if I were to enjoy a free launch.
Right away you can see the parallel with Christian meditation, or what is more properly called "infused contemplation." To quote Professor Wiki,
"Infused or higher contemplation (also called intuitive, passive or extraordinary) is a supernatural gift by which a person's mind and will become totally centered on God. It is a form of mystical union with God, a union characterized by the fact that it is God, and God only, who manifests himself. Under this influence of God, which assumes the free cooperation of the human will, the intellect receives special insights into things of the spirit..."
Another writer says that although "the prayer is called passive, man is not purely passive in it. On the contrary, one is never so completely and utterly active as when God moves him by the graces of mystical prayer. But in this mystical experience the 'divine partner in the dialogue' is in the foreground rather than the human response."
This is why in the book I adopted the symbols (---) and (o) for our silence and openness/receptivity before O. I suppose it takes a kind of "effort" to maintain (---) and (o), but as far as I'm concerned the yoke is on us and it's easy.
Having said all this, I have come to believe that the story of the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is really the story of our lives; in short, every biography is a pneumography, but every pneumography is different, since we are each unique. Our lives are a complex tapestry of horizontal and vertical influences, such that no story can be the same.
There was a time when I would have been aware of no vertical influences in my life. However, I think that anyone on a spiritual path reaches a kind of tipping point whereby they look back upon their lives and become aware of a cosmic Conspiracy of Grace that had been occurring all along. There is a recognosis of the myriad experiences, events, and meetings that had to occur for you to be where you are. From this perspective the whole thing looks contrived. No one would believe it, except that it actually happened.
Anyway, when I would engage in the meditation I would begin with a chant/prayer with words to the effect of "I surrender my life, my heart, my mind, to your light, your love, your power." Just total surrender. I give up. I can't get anywhere on my own, so it's on you. Little help, please. Throw us a bone, eh?
I would literally imagine the vertical energy coming down into the top of my skull -- you know, the seventh chakra. In order to facilitate the exchange, I would breathe it in via inhalation, and "surrender" it via exhalation (something I still do to this day). So I was literally imagining (↓↑) via respiration.
And soon enough I began to feel something in the top of my head, although it could of course be just my imagination. Nevertheless, it was a definite sensation of energy and opening, so I just stayed with it. After all, I had nothing better to do with my time, and besides, a little belief in the unbelievable never hurt anyone.
As for aids to meditation, I did sometimes have ambient music on in the background (such as Steve Roach). Also, I had an old, first generation "brainwave synchronizer" that I believe I purchased at Hammacher Schlemmer or some other overpriced gift store. I'm not sure it did anything it was advertised to do, but it did facilitate the silence and emptiness.
James makes a reference to O-->(n) which is the symbol I deploy in the book for infused contemplation -- or to put it in the most general terms possible, the communication of content from ultimate reality to us. Unbelievable? Yes, unless you believe ultimate reality exists and that we are in its image. Then it's as easy as shutting up and listening.
Having said that, this leads directly to James' next question, "Do you think this is available to everybody, or is it more of a gift or talent?" I suppose in theory it's available to everyone, but practically speaking it can't be. For example, could I write a symphony that communicates the divine presence? Yeah, but it would help to learn an instrument and to know musical theory and notation, like Bach. It would also help to totally devote my life -- not only to music, but to God, or to God-through-music.
In my case, I have totally devoted my life to God-through-words. Which is not that easy, since Bob is definitely not to language as Bach is to music. I am obviously not a great writer, but I do believe I'm an adequate one, and I have been told that I am good at conveying deep or complex ideas in a straightforward and unpretentious manner. So, I think I'm adequate to get the job done so long as this verticalisthenic exercise of (b)logostreaming is accompanied by total sincerity and surrender.
So the current structure is really no different than the meditation of old, except I surrender my mind, my heart, and my FINGERS to your light, your love, your power.
To be continued...