Although I live in the US now, the story I am relating happened when I was growing up in Hong Kong, China.
I have tried not to put my spiritual experiences in words for a long time, since there are really no words that can describe these experiences. And putting them in words inevitably bound my actual experiences to the limited conceptual framework that these words represent.
On the other hand, I see that now is a ripe time for the scientific community to study spiritual experiences, along with NDE's (near-death experiences), and so more candid accounts of these experiences are needed. In today's world I see many problems caused by organized religions, by people believing in the wrong thing mixed in with the right, not being able to discriminate truths about God from half-truths. This often stems from well-meaning religious people or prophets mixing their own opinion about God with their actual experiences of God. The scientific method can be useful in discriminating what's true from what's not, although it has its own limitations.
Below I will try to relate my spiritual experiences without interpretation. The process turned out to be less of a memory recollection than a reliving of the actual experiences. You will find that I would switch to present tense when I am reliving those moments. However, the period before my major spiritual experience (my awakening or enlightenment experience), I relive those moments more as a bystander, perhaps due to my enlightenment experience being such a life-changer that I am no longer the girl that I was before the experience. Here's my story:
A 5 or 6 year old girl that I was finds herself being troubled and saddened by all the news about war and suffering she sees on TV. She does not want her sadness to affect her family, so she would cry quietly by herself when she takes baths. While she sits in the warm bath, she would sometimes look at her small arms and hands from somewhere behind her eyes, from somewhere calm inside her and finds it fascinating that she has such small arms, that she can move them about, manipulate them at that particular moment in time, in that bath tub. There are also vague remembrances of other times of such clarity in her mind, such as this particular moment that I am typing these words - now.
The 5 or 6 year old little girl is outdoors on school ground being lined up for class photo. A question crosses her mind: 'What is a class photo that gets this moment etched in time that I can look back at later in life?' Immediately a realization comes upon the girl, and her consciousness rises above and expands further and further out. A love and kindness toward all beings envelope her.
As the girl grows up, she is still saddened by all the bad news she sees on TV, and frustrated that she cannot do anything about them, or understands why they happen. She gets depressed. The depression gets so bad that she wants to kill herself. Ending it all seems such an easy way out. But she can't. She cannot bear doing that to her family. She also remembers the Christian teaching at school about killing oneself, and the Buddhist teaching about people having to come back lifetime after lifetime to resolve matters. What if these teachings are right? Seeing no other way out, she feels more trapped and depressed. So she sits. Everyday she does her duties - go to school, come home and study. And then she sits, pondering. From pondering to reading books about philosophy, she finds no resolution. But she finds that she feels less depressed just by sitting here watching her own breathing. And so she starts checking out books from the library about meditation as well, and begins her amateurish way of meditation.
The girl is now a teenager. She has experienced a few more epiphanies, such as the realization that all people are equal inside, from the most admired to the most despised in society. So she tries to treat everyone equally with respect.
Then one calm night while I was a teenager I have my awakening or enlightenment experience. I have been studying physics for an exam, and find myself absorbing the material better than normal. Time seems to be under my command, and so passes by slowly or rapidly at will, allowing myself to absorb the material fully. My hearing is also very acute, and I can literally hear the sounds of silence all around, which is a slight buzzing sound. And this buzzing sound seems to penetrate afar. When I hear this sound I feel that I am connected to far away beyond the stars in the sky.
After studying, I go to bed as usual. And being used to meditation by now, I automatically focus my attention on my third eye in order to relax. The third eye is the area between my eyebrows. Light appears to my third eye as usual. But this time it is different. The light intensifies and I am pulled into it. I allow myself to follow it, and immediately the buzzing sound I have been hearing all night magnifies many folds and becomes the sound of a million roaring bees. At the same time I find myself traveling at tremendous speed toward the light. It feels like traveling through a tunnel, since many visions and places pass by my two sides in a blur. I know I have but one goal - I want answers to all the big questions in life. And that lies forward, in the light.
At the time of this experience, I have been skeptical of all religions, yet remain open-minded to all of them. And so I am not expecting any religious experience in any shape or forms, or any religious experience at all. But somehow I know that I can get some answers by going toward that light.
The light intensifies to billions of times brighter than any light I have ever seen or could ever imagine. I have awakened or arrived at this place of no limit. The Light is everywhere. The Light is bright, clear, without limit, blissful, loving, and full of clear intelligence. The love and bliss are also billions of times more intense and richer than any I have ever experienced. There is also a presence about the Light. A presence without form, but of pure clear light and love and bliss and intelligence. And I realize that I am also this Light. For the first time in my life, I have an awakened feeling that makes all my previous waking hours feel like a big sluggish slumber. I am this Light. I am without limit and am everywhere and everything at the same time. Everything is one and all. I am this Love, and I love all. I am this deep Bliss. I am this immense Intelligence, and know everything without explanation or any need of explanation. Everything is perfect as they are.
Note that all these happen at the same time, or that time is not an element here. At some point, I am back in my bed. I can still feel the intense bliss and love, and carry with me the knowledge without words that I have touched. I beam and beam in bed for a while and then let myself fall asleep. Although I feel very much awake from my awakening, it is not the regular kind of awake that prevents me from falling asleep. It is more like an intensified awareness. And so I have no problem falling asleep afterward.
That awakening enlightenment experience was very much a life-changing experience for me. My depression was gone in a flash. The effect was lasting. I also found myself having talents gradually emerged that I previously did not have, such as arts and music, healing and spirit travel, etc. I think this is all due to my change in awareness and perception after my enlightenment experience. For instance, after the experience, I can see natural landscapes as beautiful dancing specks of light which are alive and communicating with each other. And so I put this on canvas. And in music too. Looking at some of Monet's paintings having little specks of paint covering the whole canvas makes me think that maybe he saw some of what I see too, that everything is made of light.
The feeling of oneness, love, happiness and bliss that you have experienced are certainly heavenly feelings.
In recent years, I have come to explore some subtle or astral levels, which include the realm of heaven. I find them to be distinctly different from my experience of the pure white light during my enlightenment. The pure white light is beyond heaven. It is the unmanifested where there is absolute potentiality. While heaven, although purer and closer to the unmanifested in nature, is still the manifested, the created, by certain collective consciousness (no doubt higher consciousness). On the other hand, the pure white light that I had described is pure consciousness.
The various realms I have explored recently spanned from the one that is very similar to our physical world (where you may meet recently deceased people), to progressively higher and brighter levels, which include the heaven as a higher level. When one's consciousness go higher (literally one feels like traveling higher, like climbing a Jacob's ladder or being pulled upwards), the environment gets brighter, and the encounter and feelings increase in love, bliss, beauty, oneness and knowledge. Then beyond the absolutely beautiful vista and love and bliss that is called heaven, there is the pure clear white light of enlightenment, which is just the quality of love, bliss, light, knowledge, without any cause or image, however magnified much much more than in heaven. One also feels unlimited. And I can see why some religious traditions, such as Buddhism, call this the Void. This is the Emptiness that encompasses everything, everywhere and all time. You KNOW that you are home when you get there. Because you are awake for the first time in your life (or in many lifes), and ordinary life waking experience is just deep deep slumber in comparison. This is our true nature, our true home.
This is accessible to all of us, at any moment. If we can tear away from our absorption in this physical world for just a moment, and center in our inner silence, of innocence in perception, we can get close to this true nature of ours in various degrees, from epiphanies of oneness, to rapturous bliss, to sudden direct knowledge (insight), to enlightenment. And with enlightenment, it is just another beginning.