Hunting for Sacred Ecstasy
“In spite of the abundance of our material possessions and spiritual knowledge, we are missing something. Becoming more spiritual or more aware of spiritual ideas, stories, teachings, symbols, amulets, paraphernalia, and sayings may not make us more spirited. What we are looking for is spirit rather than spirituality. By spirit I don’t mean a hypothesized entity or ghostlike presence from another dimension. I am referring to a spirited life, one that is filled with vitality, joy, and occasions of ecstatic delight.” – Bradford Keeney, Shaking Medicine, 2007
I met Brad shortly after his celebrated book, Shaking Medicine, was published. He had a reputation for being an exuberant, larger than life teacher and performer. He drummed, he shouted, he shook. He gave improvisational “talks” on ecstatic cultures around the world and by the end the audience would erupt into a frenzy of joyful shaking and quaking.
To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
I had been a practicing Zen Buddhist for several years and, despite considering myself an open-minded, spiritual person, all this shaking and ecstatic expression was foreign to me. I was a dancer, but even the wildest forms of dance seemed restrained in comparison to whatever life force energy Brad was plugged into.
“As celebrated joy lifts our spirit, our body longs to join the party. As delight escalates, our body heads toward the experiential landscape of ecstatic performance. . . Here we find ourselves, maybe for the first time, in the kindergarten of ecstatic wisdom. We are encouraged to allow the trembling, shaking, and quaking to take over. We experiment with giving up control.” – Bradford Keeney, Shaking Medicine
What I discovered was that Brad lived his life in relationship to something with which I was unfamiliar at the time: sacred ecstasy. Whether it’s called shaking medicine, being struck by spiritual lightning, mystical union, divine rapture, or some other name— it’s an experience that was missing from my life.
I’m not sure I even consciously knew it was missing until I encountered it. At the same time, like so many people on a spiritual path I always had a vague but deep sense that there was a realm of sacred experience to which I didn’t have access. I read the testimonies of the shamans and healers that Brad had met all over the world and could see that they, and he, shared an intimate closeness with divinity that I could conceptualize and even imagine, but did not feel.
I later learned from experience that it is this feeling that matters most. Ecstasy is a full blown emotional union with the divine, the bliss of which inspires rhythm, song, and makes the body move. Sacred ecstasy combines the most extreme joy with the highest degree of somatic excitement, bringing a frenzied rapture William James characterized as “deliciousness . . . beyond anything known in ordinary consciousness.” Sufis describe this as a “total absorption with God” while contemporary mystic Evelyn Underhill characterizes it as an “inebriation of the Infinite” and “the perfect consummation of the Love of God.” Over all else, spiritual seekers throughout the world are hunting for (or should be hunting for) this utmost experiential outcome. It’s not a one-time event, but a whole new way of living.
“In these ecstatic realms of experience, we are attuned, calibrated, freshly inspired, converted to a mission, infused with spirit, and reborn anew. It is this experience which we most deeply seek when we feel that something is missing in our lives.” – Bradford Keeney, Shaking Medicine
Sacred ecstasy is a universal human experience that is not bound by any particular tradition, culture, or geographic locale. And yet it has often been suppressed, misunderstood, or forgotten entirely. After all, ecstasy frees the body, unbinds the mind, and softens the heart. It is the enemy of rigid boundaries, hardened prejudice, and social control.
In fact, when it comes to climbing the ultimate mystical heights it matters little what the mind believes or thinks: ecstatic know-how is found in how the body moves, sounds, and feels. Likewise, the deepest immersions into the mystical world are more heard and felt than seen or contemplated. All this means that if we are going to put ourselves on the ecstatic path, our daily spiritual practices must embody and enact that which we seek.
“In Sacred Ecstatics, spiritual talk gives way to the ecstatic walk that takes you to the heartfelt pulse of mystery. Forming a notion is less important than waking up sacred emotion. For those who are spiritually cooked, spiritual talk ‘don’t mean a thing’ unless it has that authentic rhythmic swing, the good vibrations of spiritual electricity.” – The Keeneys, Sacred Ecstatics: The Recipe for Setting Your Soul on Fire
Our teaching has recently undergone a major evolutionary shift, and we will soon launch a whole new approach to the conduction and induction of sacred ecstasy. It is based on recent dreams that brought us in touch with the great inventor Nikola Tesla and the genius polymath, Charles Henry, the former director of a laboratory at the Sorbonne in Paris. (Click here to see reports of some of these visions.) We have been immersed in preparing this new material so it can be introduced to the world through our mentorship program.
For now, we can share this about preparing yourself for sacred ecstatic experience:
Without a doubt, the soulful mark of ecstatic transformation is found in the awakened, syncopated rhythms that organize our sounds and movements. When you cross the threshold into the spiritual heat, rhythm becomes primary. Therefore you must make a revolutionary change in how you pursue the sacred: you need a fascinating rhythm rather than a mindful metronome to align, awaken, and spiritually grow the whole of you.
It’s not enough to simply turn on some wild rhythms and shake—although by all means we encourage any and all free-body expression, especially for those of you who rarely move in a spontaneous way. It’s also not enough to dance, because at the height of ecstasy the body has a more complex and changing relationship to inner pulses and rhythms than dancing to music permits.
“Music is the basis of the whole creation. In reality the whole of creation is music, and what we call music is simply a miniature of the original music, which is creation itself, expressed in tone and rhythm.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan
Rather than dance, entrance, or get entrained to the beat, you need to train the greatest instrument of ecstasy—your own body—to be sensitive and responsive to rhythmic change and surprise. Dare we ask whether doing so regularly makes you more ready, willing, and able to embrace the rhythmic changes, surprises, and interrupts that accompany daily living? Or whether growing your relationship to fascinating rhythms makes you more able to discern when the rhythms of your life have gone lifeless and flat?
Don’t forget that beyond the shaking, quaking, bouncing, wiggling, jolting, jumping, and ecstatic body pumping is the vital ingredient needed to spiritually cook your life: sacred emotion. Einstein called this mystical feeling “the finest emotion of which we are capable”— that which inspires the hunt for sacred ecstasy and movement toward the divine. Sacred emotion—the love and longing we feel for divine mystery—is what makes shaking a medicine that sets your soul on fire.