Saturday, April 30, 2011

Unfinished Business

I am having another rough day. Its not awful, but my focus sucks. I am clearly preoccupied and have been for a couple of days, which coincides exactly with my visit with S. My attention keeps wandering back to this feeling I have in the pit of my stomach. Yesterday I was a mix of angry and sad, and today is seems just sad. She is on sick leave and having been in her shoes (completely burned out and unable to work for an extended period of time), I have offered her my time. She seems to have little support and that is not a good place to be. I got through it, and although I learned a lot, doing it alone is painful, time consuming and often disheartening. I just dont think anyone should have to do that. I have time, energy and experience, so I have offered that.

Anyway, since we met a number of months ago and I have become more aware of what she is dealing with, I have been wondering if I got through everything. In the last few months I have suspected that the answer is no. Yesterday I realized that the answer is a definitive NO. I have unfinished business. She talked about how I am the only person who goes out of their way, to check in and just listen. She was quite emotional and said that she does not go there on her own and that nobody sees her like that. The parallels between her experience and my own make me realize(again) that the realm of human experience is quite limited. She is angry, frustrated and lonely and I remember that too well. As she spoke to me about how she feels, I found myself angry and sad. My reaction was visceral and it stuck with me. Having a visceral reaction is quite normal for me, but that it sticks is not usual. There is clearly something I need to work out.

Over the last few months, I have been focused more on my spiritual growth, the idea of meditating (I havent really done much, so really just the idea) thinking about the feeling I used to have, which is one of the reasons I stopped meditating, and how similar that feeling was that I had on my trip up Pink Lake hill last summer and how much that disturbed and frightened me. And then theres my existential crisis of last summer where I felt different parts of me waking up that I didnt want to wake upor maybe wasnt prepared to have them wake up, and how this summer I made a decision to go there, if need be. It feels like all different dimensions of the same thing. Its a recurring feeling of heaviness that comes in varying degrees and seems to be a mixture of so many emotions that when I have it, I dont know how I feel. There arent very many instances when I dont know how I feel. I have it on my bike when I do hills, I wake up with a mild version of it sometimes, and I have it when I meditate, which leads me to believe that I have access to it when my brain shuts down; when I find a state where I am not engaged in thought. Thinking about it makes it harder to see and feel, as though it is something I can only see from my peripheral vision. And now, for the first time that I am aware of (I think), I can feel it after speaking with someone. I feel a mixture of anger and sadness which fades the more I think about it, so I am trying to just watch it. I am trying to understand it, but perhaps that is not the way to go.

I have been looking through my journals for my first experience of being completely open to everything, what I said about it and how I felt afterward. It fucked me up. As I read I am realizing that it didnt happen that way. It wasnt sudden; there are a lot of factors that led up to those experiences. I struggled with my sensitivity to other people and how they feel, but had a series of more subtle experiences of peace that I seemed to do pretty well with. This all happened pretty much after I stopped meditating, and somehow it seems I have been coasting on that momentum ever since. I thought that by choosing a normal concrete life I would somehow put that other side to sleep, but that has not been the case. When I realized last year that it was, indeed, not the case, I made a conscious decision to drink regularly, which worked for a while, but I am being pulled again. I am not sitting formally, but I am not sure I need to. My alcohol intake is going down, my awareness of myself is changing and I find myself more engaged in the world, my activities and the people in my life. Some days it is really intense. I feel so much love. I dont know what to do with all of that energy. Its very odd to have this in winter, but this winter I had lasted for quite a while. I could feel part of my brain shutting down for the season, it got hard to concentrate, I was happy to stay home, I had less energy and was happy to be alone most of the time. At the same time, I wanted to connect. I wanted to spend time with people. I wanted to go out and have fun, but I had a hard time making it happen. As a result, I accepted invitations when I could and put in as much effort as I could to make contact. For a while it was an interesting winter. I dont know how to stop that part of my brain from shutting down, but there is a whole other part that did not shut down for quite a while - it wasn't until January I think.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Coming to Life in Spring

As spring sets in, I feel parts of my brain coming back to life. I am more alert, better able to concentrate, generally happier, and more in-tune with myself and what’s going on around me. Seasonal Affective Disorder has been quite a curse for a good portion of my life, but now it is a rather interesting process to watch. Winter is difficult and long, but I am no longer depressed, and my partner tells me that my moods are stable. I am not particularly motivated, and things I need to concentrate on take quite a bit longer to complete, but I have come to accept that that is just the winter me. The last two winters have been much clearer for me. I have sustained a level of connectedness to myself and my friends and family that I have not done before. I still gripe, but it’s just annoyance at my lack of energy and focus.

This spring I am realizing that this past winter was actually a relief, and perhaps a period of rest. I got a break from my continued awareness of how I feel, how others feel, from the intensity with which I literally vibrate all summer and from my continued awareness that each moment is pure potential. I joke that I can feel my synapses firing, but I can certainly feel something…all the time! The last couple of years I have had a bit of an existential crisis (if, indeed, they can come in ‘bits’). As I feel myself wake up, I have experiences that are out of the ordinary. Mysticism as a concept is not new to me, and I have had my share of experiences as well. These are not quite those, but they remind me of that intensity of beauty, peace and certainty… and the aftermath of those experiences, which, for me, has been emotionally devastating. I have read a lot of stuff on mysticism, the numinous, experiences of insight, enlightenment, blissful states, you name it …. looking for one mention of anything but bliss, but all anyone talks about is how wonderful the experience is. Not to discount the experience itself, but when you are tossed back into mundane reality, the harsh realities of life can be brutal;  the contrast can be unbearable. I still have no idea how the average person integrates an experience like that.

After dealing with that a couple of times, I figured out that I could stop them. I was overwrought with guilt about that for a while, but it was easier to deal with that than the alternative, and having a sense of control made me less worried about when the next one might come. They stopped for a while and a couple of years ago, I had what I thought were preliminary experiences. I freaked out, was in a virtually paralyzed state of anxiety for a few weeks, I could hardly speak, and I isolated myself to such a degree that my partner thought I was planning to leave. Note to self: When you find yourself in a state of anxious paralysis and you can’t put a sentence together, tell your partner as much about what is going on as you can formulate.

As I came to terms with the fact that I might have more peak experiences, I remembered that I could stop them. Guilt and emotional suffering not withstanding, when stuck between a rock and a hard place, at least the rock is identifiable. I started to relax and nothing extreme occurred. It was spring, it felt like the switch was tripped and I was charged with an electrical current, but life remained fairly normal by my definition. I have not had a peak experience, now, in about 10 years, but I am beginning to wonder if that’s because my life is changing. I see more beauty than I have ever seen before, I am frequently overwhelmed with love, and with an ever deepening sense of peace has come a connection to my life and those in it that is beyond description. Not bad for a kid that spent the first 30 years of life depressed and feeling like life is just out of control. I use to wonder what the point was. I wondered daily why I even woke up. The point isn’t a point at all. It’s so big I couldn’t see it for looking. It is…..