Lesson from an Angel

Meditating on the Mountain



In honor of “The Unknown” (and because a few loyal readers asked me), I delve deeper into my encounter with the unknown, begun last time….


One night, after I graduated my college and just before I moved to New York, I woke up in the middle of the night to see an apparition of a lovely young woman.  Her features were very delicate and she seemed to be made entirely of white mist—picture an ice sculpture, except in dry ice.  I had the impression that she was fair, or had been fair in life. She wore a long, exquisitely detailed lace dress (to this day, I can see the eyelets in the lace) and her hair was long and wavy. She smiled kindly and told me her name was Elizabeth.

And she delivered this chilling warning: “I came to tell you that if you don’t want your body, there are others who do.”  She told me that she didn’t live in that ominous house, but that she was nearby and I could find her if I needed her.  At the time, I took it as a warning that she was after me—along with unseen others.  For years, I found her appearance and message so terrifying I never spoke of it—as if to speak of it was to open a door to the unknown.

Now, I see Elizabeth as a benevolent spirit, a guardian.  Years in Manhattan, a purported “channel” asked me who Elizabeth was because when he sensed or heard that name all around me.  Perhaps that was what she meant when she told me she didn’t live in the ominous old house where she appeared but nearby.  But that night I thought she was warning me that she might take over my body—along with “others” who were dark.  Don’t ask me how I knew they were dark, but that was my sense.  They were dark spirits, hunting for bodies.

To see an apparition was terrifying enough. But that message!  It presented a reality that was unlike anything I had ever read or considered in my life.  I had been given a glimpse of something I could barely take in—that you can lose your life before you die.  It planted questions in me that were just dreamy speculations before:  Why are we given these human bodies?  What does it even mean to be embodied?  What is it all for?  Is it all for pleasure and avoidance of pain?  What are we meant to do while we are here?

But those questions came later.  That night, I dug down deep into the earth of my existence.  If the experience changed my view of reality, it also changed my view of myself.   It turned out there was more to me than I thought—that my thoughts and dreams, were just the tiniest part of me, a wisp of fog on a mountain top.  The mountain was life.

“No!” welled up from the depths of my being.  I don’t know if I actually shouted it, but it lit me up inside like lightening.  There was a surge of energy.  It wasn’t anger.  It was a wild animal certainty and fierceness.  When I was a little girl, I pretended I was friends with a super strong and super intelligent invisible black panther named Striker. There are situations that are so grave and critical, we plug straight into instinct. That night, Striker woke up in me.

Instinct isn’t in the highest human faculty.  It links us with the animal, not the angel.  But it has is an animal strength and purity, and we need be connected with it if we are to thrive in this precious life—especially if we want to know the truth.  There is a Buddhist sutra in which the Buddha is described as sitting in the center of courtyard or a house, guarding every entrance.  This is the posture we are to take to achieve awakening.   I’m not sure the commentaries mention this, but that is the stance a warrior.  Instinctively, I assumed that posture. I knew that night that if wasn’t vigilant, guarding every window and door, I could be lost.  I could be replaced by some disembodied and possibly dark force and no one would ever know.

These days, some scientists are researching the circumstantial, changeable nature of self. They are discovering that who we experience ourselves to be is constantly updating narrative, determined by the myriad influences around us.  But that night, I discovered that we are much larger than these little selves. In the grip of instinct, I discovered our common connection to the vast, submerged mountain range of great nature.  And I sensed (however distantly) that we may be meant to play a role in a greater drama than our endless personal dramas.

Before the Buddha achieved enlightenment, the demon Mara tried to distract him with beautiful women and temptations of all kinds.  When that didn’t work, he unleashed fearsome armies. But the Buddha would not be moved.  He reached down and touched the earth, asking it to bear witness to his right to be there. In the traditional teachings, this gesture affirms the Buddha’s many life times of seeking.  But I think it was a gesture of connection with his larger nature—the awakening of the animal of the body.  He needed to come down out of his thoughts and connect with the whole of himself to stand against Mara.

In Buddhist cosmology, Mara is not just an external demon but also all those impulses in us which distract us and pull us away from the spiritual path. But the Buddha would not be overtaken by desire or fear or hatred or any other dark force. The Buddha needed to be fully awake, in mind, heart, and body.  Many great spiritual traditions speak of man’s unique position between the angels and the animals.  On the night of his awakening, the Buddha discovered the Eightfold Path, which is not about accumulating facts, but literally about clearing a path inside.

Although it would take decades and many mishaps and adventures to fully realize, that night Elizabeth showed me that we may be a channel for different forces.  The greater truth doesn’t just dwell “out there” in some abstract cosmic realm.  It finds expression in the microcosm of our own life.  What we are open and willing to receive…that is an open question.


28 thoughts on “Lesson from an Angel

  1. Thank you for a fuller explanation of Elizabeth. A wonderful juxtaposition of the spiritual to animal and then back to the Ground of Being. Nice rhetorical journey.

    I wonder if the Buddha touching the Earth was for strength in the Ground of Being. Surely for me, the loss of self or severe distress and confusion drives me back to God. In my narrative, severe grief and loss drove me to tears at the foot of the Cross. I think you are right, my narrative is ever changing but the Cross can be a constant, foundational touchstone from which I can draw strength and meaning for what appears to be meaninglessness.

    I think it is also edifying that our own definitions of self are so limited and limiting – Elizabeth exploded your sense of space for you. Your space, thick or thin, goes beyond our wildest imaginings. Elizabeth points to wonders beyond and to the preciousness that is Tracy Cochran. A preciousness that extends to beings and places far beyond those that we can touch and hold.

    Ah, how great and mysterious is the journey!

    Peace, Scott

    1. Thank you, Scott. I was trying to convey something I am still trying to understand–sooner or later, life does drive us to God. But God also needs us to embody the truth. We can’t just float away and become angels–we are meant to bring God (or the divine or the Truth) down to earth. And to do that, we don’t just need a pure heart and mind but the body. We need to enlist the animal of the body. Does that make sense? There is a quality of determination and willingness that we need or we’re just wishy-washy things that can be blown this way and that.

      Do you know what I’m getting at? And I’m just beginning to glimpse this, being a very slow learner.

      P.S. The story you related is really chilling. To think that all of these things we think are metaphors–to be possessed by someone–could be literally true!

  2. In our scripture group we often dwell on the imagery of demons. The Bible tells us that there are many things outside our imagined reality; Jesus, in his humanity, is cared for by angels and speaks to demons – why not us? More thing in heaven and earth than we could ever imagine. Jesus also uses metaphor – you are like grain, a tree, a mighty wind, a flame. We make contact with the world around us through the physical and the spiritual. The less limiting our belief perhaps the closer we can get to God.

  3. I have to answer theologically, being a Christian and all. When it comes to enlisting the body, we have to point to two things. First, Genesis speaks of Imago Dei, the Image of God. We are created in the image of God and therefore each of us is precious and worthy. Second, God became incarnate through his Son so that we could know God more fully. Clearly, the body is sacred for God emptied himself and became like us.

    Even Elizabeth had a tangible corpus for you recall fine details of her physicality. I think her being points to the spiritual body that Paul tells us we will inherit when we change from the perishable to the imperishable in 1 Corinthians 14:42ff.

    Implicit in all this for me is the acceptance that God gave us emotions (animality?) for good reason. It helps us to live and to embrace them properly is to be more fully human. My struggle is to more fully understand where my emotions come from. Am I angry at an individual for what they did to me or I am reacting to an event that occurred years ago that is echoing back in the moment. Can I recognize my emotions as they arise and understand them so I am not a slave to them but can use them to more fully understand what is happening?

    But I think you speak of something else…a crouching watchfulness, looking at all the doors. I recollect a thought from Henri Nouwen where he talks about waiting in a state of patient expectancy. Perhaps a little different than yours. Not the same sense of the panther.

    Is the panther perhaps pointing to passion, a passion that gives life meaning? A belief so deep that one will do anything to defend it?

    P.S. I did not get a sense of chilling or fear from my friend’s coinhabitor, mostly puzzlement and astonishment that I could perceive whatever I perceived. And I continue to wonder, what do I do with that. I’m glad you have a narrative that enfolds Elizabeth in a loving way.

  4. Tracy, now you have given me courage to tell another story, but I’ll share that story elsewhere.

    For now, what I would like to add is something on the nature of relationship.

    None of us dwell in this world alone, nor do we experience reality alone. It seems to be a group experience. Do you agree?

    And we are constantly called into realationship one another,someone, every day. Every day is a new experience for us, and we never know what might be coming our way.

    It’s all so open, open to endless possibilities and relationships. Is this openness the nature of consciousness and reality itself, not just your’s or mine?

    Rather a group or universal consciousness, that shapes the reality in which we live, an experience of creation itself in a type of co-creation that brings it all into sharp focus.

    Am I making any sense here at all?

    If true, if we are called into relationship with one another, with creation itself, then why? What is it that we are learning, sharing, and creating together.

    Perhaps it is something like this. We are called into realationship to learn that we do indeed dwell within one another.

    That your consciouness and my consciouness may be one and the same, that we are emmanations of one another, mirrors in many ways.

    Is this the oneness we find and discover or uncover, reveal, receive enlightenment from, in all the great spiritual tradtions and faiths of the world?

    I don’t mean this dialog to only be full of questions, because I think we find our answers within these questions.

    Do you think that this is what you are getting a glimpse of now? That within in you is a reflection of me, of another, and that together we are creating a world, a reality, an experience that echoes back into our individuals lives, or many lives, across a universe of infinite scope and potential, openness, across all the heavens.

    Could this be why the great sages and teachers across humankind point us towards treating one another as our self, because we find our self resting in others, intimately connected to them as part of the ulitmate divine mystery (God), the true nature of reality?

    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

    1. Hi Ron,

      This is a very profound reflection, and it resonates with me. There is a relational quality to reality. We know ourselves in relation. AND at the same time, we need to be grounded in the body, the feelings, the earth, so that the truth can be known through our experience. As someone was saying to me the other day, God–or Consciousness–experiences Himself as a squirrel in a squirrel. The Truth is realized by us–and not just in our thoughts or in our finer reflections–but in the whole of our beings.

      Suddenly, I’m very interested in what it means to be embodied. There are teachings that say we are meant to transmit a special energy or vibration (or love?) We are meant to incarnate something. But we can only do this if we are in balance, grounded yet open.

  5. I’m sorry for being so loquacious, I feel like I am talking around your point rather than answering it head on.

    You’re right, we can’t be wispy, we do need to be determined and willing to fight for the truth. There is evil in the world, I know you know that. We clearly have to fight against that. Also, how do we spring into action against more subtle kinds of evil that distort the truth with lies, deception and distractions? We have to be grounded in THE TRUTH and be willing to put on the belt of Truth and the breastplate of Righteousness and to carry the shield of Faith to deflect the flaming darts of the evil one. We must fight for the Light!

    Must be why I like the Lord of the Rings and Paul so much…

    1. Thanks, Scott. I don’t think you are being loquacious, talking around the point. A subject like “why do we need the body?” is deep.

      But we do need to engage the whole of ourselves, to make a stand inwardly and outwardly. And the forces that can overtake us can be subtle…even righteousness can curdle into something negative, punishing. It takes constant vigilence and radical honesty…and listen to me go on, human sloth that I am…so easily frightened I’ve been known to run out of when scary movies are on. Really.

      But I aim to be Frodo…and I believe we are meant to help somehow…peace.

  6. Scott,
    I know that this is slightly off topic, but in response to your 4:35 post concerning emotions – where they come from, whether we react to individuals or past events reflecting and refracting through the present, is this not somewhat too simple? Individuals made in the image of God are complex, as are the events that we pass through in life. If an individual from my past reacted in the ways he did not out of malice, but due to events that separated him from community and God, and perhaps that parent that went through the same separations himself, how should we address the issue? One of the most difficult things I have to deal with is the fact that when my father, who somehow found a way to come to grips with his demons towards the end of his life, apologized to me on his deathbed for being a bad father, all I could do was stand there like an idiot, unable to say a thing. Now that he has been gone for 18 years, how does one find the ability to find some measure of closure when the when the earthly window is long shut?
    And if guidance comes in the form of an Elizabeth, does that mean that we are ready to receive it? Or is it more of an invitation to rise to the occasion?

  7. Lewis,

    Wow…memory…deep seated emotions…reconciliation and lack thereof…

    My heart goes out to you. I can only say that both you and your father are held in the love of God and the reconciliation that was achieved on the Cross is meant to be both between you and God and you and your father. We are held out the promise of everlasting life where every tear will be wiped away and every wound healed. I believe that you will have a chance to see your father again and to say the words that you could not find here in this life. Christ has readied a room for you in the Father’s house and surely your father will be waiting at the door.

    Peace to you Lewis,

  8. Lewis,

    To Him be all honor and glory. It is God’s overwhelming love for us that lies at the center of everything. Rest easy in that.


    1. I believe this is true–there is love at the center of everything. And the act of resting in that that, being open to that, can be a practice–whether we call it meditation or prayer. This is where the attention on the body, on sensation, on what is beneath thought is helpful, so that we may become grounded, relaxed, receptive. Or as I once heard, the higher (and our own higher faculties or receptors) areperfect–it’s the lower parts (our connection to the body, our knotted and unknown feelings) that can stand a bit of attention. At least I feel like I need a bit of attention or training–to be able to participate in the wonder that is always unfolding…so that I’m not taken over by anger, fear, other unprocessed emotions, at least not so often. It’s a little like learning to receive a gift with grace…so, thank you!

    1. No! Not too abstract. You are right on. We are meant to be in relation–and the truth is relational. The question is how we can be in conscious relationship. That takes that deeper, wordless work of being with our experience, our sensations, feelings, our deeper experience. Seeing ourselves is the way to become a mirror, don’t you think?

  9. Being in the body is critical, you see this in Christianity, within the Incarnate Word, where Christ is seen as the embodiment and manifestation of God’s love for all humankind. Within this Paschal Mystery there is a great truth, one where spirit, mind, and body are in unity with all creation, and that this is transforming us, to transform the world. It leads us to a very deep theology about the nature of Christ, and becoming like Christ. A Christ consciousness. A Buddha mind. Such love, such compassion is life giving, and life transforming, enriching beyond our imaginations. Perhaps we can only have such an impact and awareness within this world through the body, grounded in this groundlessness, this openness to God, to the mystery of life, creation, a shared reality that reveals this truth.

    1. Thanks, Ron. I’ve always found that so profound–and such a koan–that God so loved the world he became embodied. Rather than remain remote, cosmic, he came down to us, accepting the limitations and fraily of a human body.

      The mystery deepens…

  10. Hi Tracy

    And she delivered this chilling warning: “I came to tell you that if you don’t want your body, there are others who do.”

    Consider what we ARE as described by Peter Brook


    “Although firmly rooted in a very ancient, lost tradition, Gurdjieff’s teaching is bitingly contemporary. It analyzes the human predicament with devastating precision. It shows how men and women are conditioned from earliest childhood, how they operate according to deep-rooted programs, living from cause to effect in an unbroken chain of reactions. These in turn produce a stream of sensations and images, which are never the reality they pretend to be, they are mere interpretations of a reality which they are doomed to mask by their constant flow.

    Every phenomenon arises from a field of energies: every thought, every feeling, every movement of the body is the manifestation of a specific energy., and in the lopsided human being one energy, is constantly swelling up to swamp the other. This endless pitching and tossing between mind, feeling, and body produces a fluctuating series of impulses, each of which deceptively asserts itself as “me”: as one desire replaces another, there can be no continuity of intention, no true wish, only the chaotic pattern of contradiction in which we all live, in which the ego has the illusion of will power and independence. Gurdjieff calls this “the terror of the situation.”


    Your interests may indicate that you have a quality of energies worth dining upon

    The whole idea of psychic vampirism is based upon feeding on energies. Our bodies do transform substances into qualities that may provide a good meal for hungry entities.

    1. Hi Nick, Thanks for that very useful quote. My question is, who are these hungry entities? And what are they seeking? What do they want to feast on?

  11. If no one minds, Id like to return to a previous question – namely, is it possible for that opporotunity towards deeper insight or action, to present itself to people who are NOT ready for it? I seem to remember Joseph Campbell telling Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth that he felt Hamlet was given just such opporotunities that he was not ready for -in effect, they blew him apart. Tracy, in your July 31st reply, you said that you feel like you need a bit (more?) attention or training to participate in the wonders unfolding? Ron, is it possible for anyone, throgh overwhelming ego or mental defect NOT to be able to enter the Paschal Mystery – if not, does this mean that God presents Himself as a spectrum of guises designed to serve everyone – wherever they are on their personal path? And Nick, how do we re-condition ourselves to better resonate with truth against the fluctuations of the ego and it’s many forms?
    Since a one-way relationship is impossible (I think), and since it would seem to follow that no entity who desired a two-way relationship with another would engineer the concept of the relationship in such a way that it was impossible for it to succeed, that for the relationship to have true value, both sides must enter into it through free will with the right intent, then the concept of a lasting relationship between us and the spiritual must be resilient yet delecate indeed.


    1. Hi Lewis, In the experience I described, there is no question I was being offered something I was in no way prepared to receive–or to deal with in any way. Yet, the message stayed with me, resonating in me like a passage from the Bible or a koan. I didn’t understand it yet I couldn’t dismiss it as nonsense. It lived in me as something more than a mere memory, an interesting story to tell. It was a challenge to rise to the occasion, to go beyond what was known to me.

      I was very touched by what you shared to Scott. Certain impressions keep, don’t you think? They unfold over time. Peace, Tracy

  12. Tracy

    who are these hungry entities? And what are they seeking? What do they want to feast on?

    Psychic vampirism occurs between people. Usually it is unintentional. It is a normal reaction when a person’s aura is deficient in a quality of energy. Then the person seeks to take it from another. This often is a sign of depression.

    Sometimes it happens intentionally by people knowledgable with magick that consciously take from others to further their own efforts.

    An example in the Bible is Delilah’s cunning seduction of Samson in which she vampirized him by cutting his hair,

    Jesus is unintentionally vampirized by the woman who, upon touching the hem of Christ’s garment, was infused with energy while Christ simultaneously felt the energy leaving his body.

    Whether or not a form of life has a body as we know it, everything consumes and transforms energy.

    I am against a lot of New Age practices including channeling since it leaves one open to the worst kind of psychic vampirism.

    The better your energies, the more desirable they will be for a good meal regardless of the form of their hungry consumer. So perhaps Liz was right to warn you.

    1. Thanks, Nick. It was a warning I have never forgotten, although I am still pulled this way and that, now feelings, now thoughts, now body. Now and again, an experience of unity. Sublime.

  13. Such an interesting topic, and comments!
    I don’t really have much to share.

    “that we may be a channel for different forces. The greater truth doesn’t just dwell “out there” in some abstract cosmic realm. It finds expression in the microcosm of our own life. What we are open and willing to receive…that is an open question.”

    I agree with this especially, Tracy. I can’t speak for that spirit that you saw as a young child..that is a mystery. But the way that you opted to act upon the message is what came from the “microcosm of your own life.”, I think.
    I don’t know about “evil spirits” or vampires, but i do know about other spirits..the ones that are called drugs and alcohol. I’ve seen the deterioration that comes from people in the grip of it…people who have committed suicide because of it, or acted in ways that they would not if they were “sober”. That to me, is a form of evil. And yet, I cannot judge the person, only the acts.
    Jesus too was tempted in the desert…just like the Buddha, and He too prevailed.
    I think we are all at times tempted, and that is why we all do “The Practice”, whether it is in the name of Buddhism or Christianity. In the final analysis for me, it all does boil down to the Great Commandment, and mercy, mercy ,mercy!
    Ron, yes. we are all in a community, part of the Whole, and part of the microcosm…part of the Mystery.
    In the end, I believe the saying of Julian of Norwich, “All Shall be Well and All Shall be Well and All Manner of Think Shall be Well.”
    Tracy, yes, the body has to be honored, we are body and spirit.
    So was Jesus, and He is my model.
    I thought this was interesting, in reading a book about meditating and “The Cloud of Unknowing”. It was about posture. It says that if you go to prayer in a bit of a “huddle”, then as the prayer begins to take hold of you you will find your back straightening out, so that in the end your body will assume the best position for taking its part in the work of the spirit…Body and spirit become partners in one work.
    As you said, (and I think you spoke for all of us) “Now feelings, now thoughts, now body. Now and again, an experience of unity. Sublime.

    Tracy | July 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/s1UpW3-1233
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