One of the earliest numinous experiences I remember happened during my late teens at a Computer Science lecture. The speaker demonstrated a simple algorithm that approached the efficiency of the theoretical optimum and my mind was transported to another realm. On the bus home my mind still reeling, I felt expanded, open and excited. I couldn’t wait to share this with someone who could understand it as well. Looking back at this experience, it seems like contact with the archetype of wholeness. In this case the wholeness of human knowledge and therefore of humanity itself as a part of nature.

For quite a while this was the spirit that moved me. The search for wholeness embodying through understanding nature. When I was in touch with that spirit through my studies or through work, I was excited, energetic, happy, moved. If I lost touch for too long I would fall into depression. Now, that I’m intellectually stimulated again, I’m happier than I’ve been in a while and yet I’m conflicted.

Some spiritual circles look down at the cognitive function of the mind as something lower and unspiritual, maybe even a hindrance on the path. At the same time, something in me knows that thinking, learning and understanding are and have always been a part of my path.

I’m driven to understand more about myself and about my path. This understanding feels right in both mind and body. And yet, I’m told not to “think the Dharma” but to “be the Dharma”. This kind of feedback caused me to deny an important part of myself in a a somewhat misguided effort to engage the path more fully. Another way for me to work with this guidance is to see that it is pointing out the shadow side of the Thinking Mind.

This shadow side can keep me from directly engaging with my experience, instead engaging only my conceptual framework. Another aspect of this shadow is in supporting my tendency for Ego inflation (being the smart one, being “in the know”, etc.) and therefore undermines my intention to hold such self-images more lightly.

Confronting this shadow can be helpful in finding freedom from the patterns I mention above. Perhaps once I’ve made progress in working with the shadow side of the Thinking Mind I can find a better balance between thinking and being. A balance that won’t be found through repression of either because for me, at least, both are gateways to the numinous.