I have something to admit: I have a problem with Christmas. Not an objection, I like the idea of families gathering and sharing, I just don’t have that, not for many years. and it’s become a problem. An issue.
I don’t know when it started, a long time ago, but every year now for a few weeks leading up to the day and building exponentially like a nuclear reactor going offline unexpectedly (except far more predictable), I deal with a pretty severe depression. By the time the day arrives I want to lock my doors, block the windows, turn off all the lights, and disappear silently into a bottle.
It’s a battle. One I usually lose. This year was no different. I tried. I really did. I meditated and read only optimistic news and reached out to family, but the meditations only made me aware of the underlying self pity, the good news made me feel left out, and family stayed out of reach.
How about that? Me. The Bohemian that spends his spare time learning, practicing, and writing about mindfulness and acceptance and gratitude and love. Depressed.
The thing about problems, problems like seasonal depression, or loneliness, or loss of self worth, or whatever, is that absolutely no one is immune. No one. The Christ faced his demons in the desert, Buddha constantly battled with Mara, and I deal with depression that lights up like a Roman candle with the first Christmas song played over crappy speakers in some back road gas station Santa will surely pass by and grows into a raging forest fire that chokes the life out of me and leaves me in ashes.
Okay, maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but also probably not so far from the truth of how it feels, but it’s also not my point.
My point is that everyone, absolutely everyone, deals with something and while I am neither the Christ or the Bhudda I have been given the very same tools to deal with those “somethings” that they were.
And one day I will learn how to use them.
Wait for it…
Today I’m grateful it’s passed and accept that I still have things to learn.
Depressed Bohemian, indeed.
There’s something funny about that image. I’ll throw it in the fodder file to use later. A gift to myself.
Days when the lightness in our heart can lift us to the skies
Days when it’s so heavy that the weight threatens to sink us to the core of the earth where we’d gladly lose ourselves in that molten hell
Days when the sun shines and lights our way
Days when the sunshine hurts our eyes and makes us wish we were invisible
Days of love and joy
Days of suffering and pain
We have very little control over the events of our days and sometimes simple things can trigger either incredible happiness or intense sorrow.
What we can control is how we deal with those events. The more aware I am of this and the more I practice mindfulness and meditation the more awake I become and the more better my days are. But its not a cure, it’s a practice. A practice that never ends.
I hope you have a more better day too but if this turns out to be one of “those” days then remember; we all have them. They pass.
One of the most desirable, and often most difficult to achieve, meditative states is that of Nothingness. It is not a state of loss of Self as the word implies but of merging with All. In joining the All we are able to experience the same egoless state of infancy where we are One with our surroundings. It is a state of consciousness where there is no division between my Self and the zafu I sit upon or the air I breathe or the light from a candle that burns or the smoke from the incense that drifts across the room.
In my spiritual wandering I have come across a number of methods to achieve this state. Methods that range from inducing trance to consuming large quantities of psilicybin to strict ritual. Most of them failed or were so hard on my body and mind that they were not worth reproducing. As a Spiritual Warrior I am determined to keep pushing forward in my search for personal truths, those things that improve my life, no matter how many setbacks or pitfalls I encounter. As a result I developed my own method of reaching this state of consciousness.
The process is not difficult though it can take some time to master. For me, it has been well worth the effort. The benefits are numerous; a sense of peace and calm that I carry with me, an understanding of and a desire to live by the intentions of love and gratitude, respect for others and our world, an appreciation of all that life offers, even it’s suffering.
We can never achieve that same perfect state of egolessness we were born into simply because we have a lifetime of experience that conflicts with it. Memories that clearly prove we are separate even if what those memories tell us is false. But we can get close.
1. Get in the zone.
Flow State is that frame of mind where one is fully immersed in an action with a feeling of energized focus. While I primarily use sitting meditation to achieve this state there are literally thousands of ways to get there. Select one that suits you whether it be meditation or prayer or trance inducing dance or running or stamp booking. Anything that gets you in the zone, that place where we allow ourselves to set aside the problems of the day and focus only on the task without thinking about it. It is quite impossible to achieve this first part if you are worried about what might happen tomorrow or the bills in the mail or the jackass that cut you off in traffic. So give yourself permission to set them aside. They’ll still be there when you are done.
This step requires intentional dissociation. If you are running, imagine seeing yourself as if from above. From the trees. A bird. The sky. If you are praying gently close your eyes and see yourself wherever you are as if standing outside yourself. As a stranger viewing your prayers in curiosity. If meditating see yourself as if you are standing in front of yourself. Whatever it is you are doing pick a person or a place or a thing and see yourself as if that thing.
It is important to accept that what you are seeing is real. That you really do see yourself from the trees or the sky or the stranger. It is surprisingly easy to visualize yourself, we do it all the time. We see ourselves failing at something. Missing the great parking spot. Not getting the raise. And we are not at all surprised when those things happen. The lesson we can take from those experiences is that we actually manifest what we believe to some degree. Apply that lesson here. See yourself. Believe it.
Allow that field of vision to expand and extend, to encompass everything around you a little at a time. Not just one tree but every tree in view. Let in sounds, smells, textures. Feel the sway of the tree in the breeze, the squirrel scrambling in your limbs, the warm moist earth on your roots, the nourishing sun on your leaves or the warmth of the lightbulb on the paint of your ceiling. The mind is an amazing thing. It really is capable of this. Soon you will have difficulty separating yourself from your environment.
With regular practice you will literally be able to see yourself in these positions, doing these things. It can be a little uncomfortable at first but it will also be familiar, and soon you will lose some sense of yourself. You will see with a thousand eyes. With one eye. You will become Nothing and in that nothingness you will experience All.
I’m not saying it’s easy and you certainly wouldn’t want to live like this all the time. We really do need to retain our sense of self in our everyday routines. But to feel the restraints of this physical life be released is true freedom. It is the egoless form of the infant recaptured by the mature mind. A mind that can appreciate the experience and apply it to living.
Image by Studio Canal from the movie “Under the Skin” which has nothing whatsoever to do with the article….. I just liked the image 🙂
When we are born we discover the most amazing things: the world develops before our very eyes and as we grow it expands as if we, ourselves, are the gods that create it moment by moment.
In our teens we discover complex emotions that threaten our very existence: rage, pain, immense joy and sadness, and, for the very first time, even though we may not recognize it for what it is, Love.
We go through school being taught pointless rhetoric: math, science, history. All the while being taught none of those things that could lead us to deeper paths; mindfulness, loving kindness, compassion. Those are supposed to be taught by our parents. Parents who never learned those things either.
Learn them. They will lead you farther than you imagine.
Later still, we discover that we wished we had learned more of those worthless ideas. Paid closer attention. What was that formula for finding the volume of a circle again? That will come in handy later. I promise you that. So pay attention if you can. But there’s more.
We discover the value of money. Of friendship and of hard work and of possession. We go into the world discovering fine food, good company, bright lights.
Too often people don’t make it past those last discoveries. They base their lives on the hedonistic values of life: a big house, a nice car, good clothes, physical pleasure. Discovery ends. Life has been explored and all that it offers has been found.
Those discoveries become empty. Meaningless. Superficial. Life becomes meaningless. Emotions become an intolerable consequence. A side effect of life.
If we are insightful, or have a fortunate predilection for it, or have a loved one willing to force our awareness, or we are just plain lucky, or unlucky, we push deeper. Struggle harder to find meaning.
Our path of discovery narrows to two distinct paths: inward or outward.
The outward path leads us to medical discovery. To miracle cures. To pills that end our suffering. To gurus and healers and shaman. The path can branch over and over from here but it always leads us to the discovery of the inward path though very very few can make that transition.
If you find yourself at that transitional fork in your path I hope, I truly hope, you find your way to the inward path. Reach into that place and you will find a hand willing to lead you farther than you ever imagined. I promise you that.
The inward path leads us to ever deeper discovery: understanding, self love, honesty, acceptance, awareness, unity, Love. True Love.
Discoveries that lead us to higher planes of existence. Planes where loss and suffering are accepted as simply a part of life and where the value of a single breath, drawn long and slow while listening to and feeling the beat of our own miraculous heart connect us to the very soul of the Universe, is beyond measure.
What we discover there can never be fully expressed in words but in that place are experiences outside the realm of comprehension and yet understood as if we were once again children creating, moment by moment, the very fabric of our own distinct, yet combined, reality.
My wish for you is this:
Continue your journey. Never cease in your struggle of discovery, because even further beyond that point lay infinity: a point of chaotic generation and regeneration of life where the distance between infancy and eons are but fractions of moments of the life of a single drop of moisture on a spiders web and all that we have discovered between birth and true life, the life that always awaits, that bekons and welcomes all, are a single reflection on the surface of that dew that shimmers a while before dropping into an endless ocean that rises as mist to condense on the web over and over again.
In that chaos of constant re-creation resides the Divine where She rests on this, the Seventh Day, with arms wide and welcome, to bring us into Her embrace.
It is a place of constant discovery and awe and wonder where a word as simple and complex as “Love” or “Gratitude” can define our very existence.
Though I tend to speak of it in terms of enlightenment and higher planes of consciousness it is not some mythical place reached only through lifetimes of deep meditation and study. It does not require the use of psychoactive compounds or healers or teachers.
With that single line St Francis defined a life of mindfulness and loving kindness long before those terms were first used. Long before pop culture turned them into an industry. A t-shirt slogan.
He goes on to describe how that instrument looks. It is one of understanding and giving. A life in service of love.
“Lord make me an instrument of peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
Oh divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life”
This is how I want my life to be yet I often fail in these intentions. Instead, I want to be understood. To be consoled. To wade deeply in my sorrow. To be loved despite my shortcomings.
When I find myself on the needy end of the spectrum that runs from giving to receiving I remember that I can not only offer these gifts to myself, I should.
My efforts to be an instrument of peace must begin with myself because to offer peace to others I must first have it within me. The good news is that inner peace is often gained in the offering of it to others. It is a beautiful, endless, self-sustaining circle.
This was my meditation this morning:
That I forgive myself and not beat myself up for being human.
That I keep strong the faith that brought me here.
That I keep the flame of hope ever burning within me to light both bright days and dark nights.
That I be willing to find and feed my joy, especially when it seems so far away.
That I love myself as I wish to be loved by others and that I share that love regardless of my pain.
That peace isn’t just something we feel, it’s something we practice.