A Child’s Toilet Epiphany

My first memorable “mystical experience” was on the toilet. I was very young and it was an ordinary day.  I don’t remember being in anything but a normal mood.  I was in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet doing the normal bathroom thing.  The door to the bathroom was just a little ajar to the hallway.  Occasionally someone in my family walked by the door and I thought to myself ,

“Gee, I didn’t close the door — this is a little embarrassing.  But wait, no one seems to know I am in here.  That is good.”

But as I thought about no one knowing I was in the bathroom, I started thinking more generally:

“Wow, this is what it would look like if I weren’t here.  Gee, but what if they don’t know I am in here because I don’t really exist?  What if I never existed?  What would this family be like now if I never existed?  What if all memories of me disappeared?  Who would I be if all these memories were gone, even my own?”

Then, bang!  Suddenly nothing was normal.  I had an abrupt flood of feelings and insights.  I suddenly felt like “I” disappeared and yet it was a rich, peaceful, buzzing feeling — my whole body felt it.  It was a little scary, but still exciting and happy.  And I felt secure in a deep understanding that was settling in.

Then the feeling faded.  That all lasted about 3 minutes and I would never forget it.  In fact, over then next two months, when sitting on the toilet I would try to think the same thoughts and ask the same questions in order to trigger the experience but it would not return.   About a half a year later, in the same setting but without trying, the epiphany came upon me again but with much less intensity.  And after that day, that experience would never return.

The hum of change from this rather simple and naive experience of a young boy has lasted as fuel for his understanding of reality since then.  Have any of you had similar experiences?  Or have you had positive inner experiences that hum for years and inform your life?  What is an atheist suppose to call these?  I could probably explain them neurologically but how do I convey them?  So, can you see why I call myself a “sympathetic Atheist“?

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20 responses to “A Child’s Toilet Epiphany

  1. You were lightened, perhaps no longer full of crap.😉

  2. Although I had a born-again experience in my mid-teens, a “unitive” experience of the sort you describe is only something I’ve experienced relatively recently. Not in a bathroom, but on a plane, reflecting on the fact that I am molecules and atoms and subatomic stuff, and the plane the same, and the atmosphere the same, and so on. And for a brief moment it wasn’t just a thought in my mind, but I “felt” that I was simply one manifestation of an underlying unified existence.

    Perhaps I would have the experience more often in the bathroom if I didn’t insist on reading in there all the time…

  3. CRL

    I tend to have these weird experiences where I just loose track of what size I am, and simultaneously feel like I’m the size of the room and about one foot long. It happen quite a lot actually, usually when I’m trying to fall asleep.

  4. Cally

    Please tell your wife I have better mushrooms for you if she wants to try them.

    Oh wait I just broke the rules, so let me bring myself into your rules.

    I personally have never had such a wonderful experience while wiping my ass. I tend to get in and out as quickly as possible it just stinks way too much for me to stick around🙂

  5. I guess I could say I had a similar experience sitting at my kitchen table watching the sun come up, sparkling on the trees.

  6. i have experienced many times like this in my life where there’s these fleeting moments where you “get it” whatever it is…. all we get are glimpses. of what i’m never quite certain, all i know is i want more.

  7. It is fun to see several readers have similar experiences.:

    @ James :
    Like you, I had a “born-again” experience in my late teens. I should write about that. However, compared to this experience, for example, it felt more like my orchestration of feelings and did not leave the memory hum that this “unitive” experience did. I have had experiences with feeling as “simply one manifestation of an underlying unified existence” pretty often (couple times a year) — they are usually gentle and not as vibrant as the one I describe in the story. But your story sounds identical to mine on that account. Our words for such subjective adventures are poverty stricken, aren’t they? I don’t think all “mystical” experiences are “unitive”, of course, but many share the effect of rattling our notions of self.

    @ CRL :
    I have had these size issue many time while meditating. I have also had them while watching expanses of scenery. Not often falling asleep. The mind is a funny thing !

    @ Luke:
    I can tell by the way you write that we share these. Over the years I have found that less people have them than I suspected. At first, of course, I assumed everyone had them. I don’t think they are virtuous or more important than normal perception, they can just give you a chance to feel and think differently. But, and I am sure you agree, the trick is to feel and think differently in everyday experience — to have a vibrant now.

  8. My own born-again experience was life changing. I went to work the next day, without having really been told what I should do or what it meant, and felt compelled to tell my boss (who was making jokes about loving money) that there are things that are more important than money. Someone else asked when I became so religion, and I thought for a second and answered “yesterday”!

    I would describe it as consisting of a strong sense of peace, of a burden being lifted from me. But when it comes to both types of experience, I agree with you that words seem inadequate.

  9. I’m not sure if I’ve had an experience quite like yours. But I have had experiences–moments when suddenly it all made sense, when answers I was looking for where suddenly found, and the world felt like a safe place: everyone loved me and I loved everyone.

    Eckhard Tolle, the guru, says to have had an experience similar to yours. He claims that one morning, he got up, looked out the window, and noticed certain sounds and sights for the first time ever.

    After, he wrote, he abandoned his career and his life completely. He slept on park benches and wondered about in awe of all things for a couple of months. Then he slowly came back to normal life and became the spiritual guru he is today.

    Doesn’t his sound like a psychotic episode?

  10. L. Rodriguez

    I was just browsing and decided to share some experiences. As a young child (probably 2-3 yrs of age) I had terrible “nighmares” in which I saw gruesome crimes, vivid images of crude physical torture all bloody and very disturbing. I am talking about the 60’s and early 70’s so in those days that kind of imagery was not available on television. From those “nightmares” I would wake up and she dark shadows flying around me and I became scared of the dark. After approximately age 7or 8 the images stopped. As I lay down in
    in bed wide awake at night in the dark I (at about 10 yrs of age) felt a presence over me, got so scared I tied to scream but my voice would not come out. I tried to jump and get out of bed but could not move. Then again the dark shadows over me. I felt as if I was being invaded and overpowered. As the years passed this scenario repeated itself over many times. As I started experimenting with drugs in my early teens everything sopped. Later on (before reaching 18 yrs of age) it began again but I discovered that by crossing my legs, wrapping my arms around me and concentrating it went away, whatever it was. I am 44 rears old and if anyone has any light into what happened to me as a child I would appreciate the information.

  11. @ L. Rodriguez

    In Japanese, what you experienced is called “kanashibari”, it happens in some people more than others and certain meditative experiences can actually make it easier to happen. And most people describe it as unpleasant. In English it is called sleep paralysis and you can read about it here.

    Moving ones arms and legs — or even toes — is a common method described to both head off and stop the situation.

    When you are asleep, for the most part your brain shuts down movement of the body so that you dream about running, dancing, swimming and such without your body imitating it. But if your mind shuts down this part BEFORE your consciousness enters sleep and you are aware of you, you have kanashibari.

    Hope that makes sense.

  12. L. Rodriguez

    Than you for the information. It is positive for me to know I’m not the only one with such experiences.

  13. @ L. Rodriguez:
    Hey, I actually wrote a post today on Kanashibari and Astral Project in response to your question. Hope it is helpful. Do take a look if you have time.
    — Sabio

  14. I contemplated similar things when I was young. What if I had never been born? Or died? What if I had a sister? Certainly noticed this idea when someone left or came into the school.

    Reminds me of the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life

    I like your spiritual contents graphic. 🙂

  15. Wow, I never knew the name for the experience I often have, kanashibari, thanks, I learned a new word!

  16. George "Toad" Shope

    I have a question about what you sensed. Did it feel like you were surrounded by energy in all directions and you could sense that was what caused the hum? Sorta like the hum of electricity in high voltage power lines but with a lower frequency and no crackling?

    Ribbit 🙂

  17. @ Justin (belated reply)
    Glad you have a word for it now, but it will only help you with Japanese.

    No I haven’t

  18. nephiriel

    wonderful experience.
    in fact, i have had a ‘similar’ one.
    i was sitting in a forest (it was summer and i was in desperate need of some shade). i sat there, staring at the leaves swaying in a light breeze, thinking of nothing in particular… and all of a sudden i got this kind of buzzing, tingling feeling…. i couldn’t feel my limbs anymore, not really… it was like i evaporated – and became one with my surroundings. i felt this powerful ‘surge of energy’ rippling through my mind – i do not know how else to describe it.
    after a moment, that feeling was gone… and i was myself again.
    i will never forget this.

  19. @ nephiriel,
    I have had that too. Odd. How generous our minds can be at times !

  20. yep, they do show us a tiny fragment of what we could be… i am happy i experienced it.

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