Thursday, May 26, 2011

Facing the Mystery: A Story of Madness and Enlightenment

Preamble: The following is based on actual events that took place in 2010. Enjoy.

He had no idea the hot water he'd be getting in to. At the time it seemed like just more "good stuff" in the intellectual spiritual realm. He'd done a stint with Eckhart Tolle's materials almost a year prior, and that had gone fairly well, helping to give him the freedom to choose to end the life situation he'd built up to that point. His quest for finding himself, a "new, better self" hopefully, had gone quite miserable that summer. Instead of finding a new, better self, he met the shit from his old self, the one he'd hoped had stayed in Victoria, again and again. He slogged his way back to the safety of his mother's second bedroom at her condo and decided he'd had enough. He quit. He quit putting absolutely any effort into anything, allowing only for what would keep him technically alive and his mom not too resentful that at 31 years old he was living with her once again. The habits wanting him to do nothing and avoid everything got free reign. Weeks spent watching TV, eating whatever was in the cupboards, and doing about as little as possible that a human being can do. It was one for the recordbooks.

He was still hopeful, though. He found his way to a couple of hundred hours of Adyashanti's lessons. Enlightenment, and all the answers that came with it, couldn't be far away after that. During one of Adya's talks, a lady mentioned books by Jed McKenna called The Enlightment Trilogy. More "good stuff" it sounded like, so he was game. After all, as much as he wanted to do nothing, a part of him wanted more than nothing. To keep that part of himself occupied, it didn't get any better than reading about the noblest quest of human existence, enlightenment.

A week went by and he'd read the books. Boy, he thought, they were a challenge. It was an assault on his sacred spiritual belief system through and through. Ouch. Anyways, it was time to move on to the next thing. Bah, but what was the next thing? He'd climbed to the top of the spiritual mountain. Little did he know, but he was standing on a precipice and about to take a tumble.


Some time ago, he'd decided to write the story of his life. He started it, got to the early years, got bored and put it on the back-burner. He decided to start it up again. At first, it went pretty well. Filling in the years from his memory. Some good and plenty of not-so-good. Nothing catastrophic, but general shittiness and increasing shittiness as he hit his teenage years. The sexual memories came up. Reminders of the bestial nature and the longing of his desires, sometimes in forms totally unacceptable in the world. So alluring and so forbidden. Repression and suppression had been the name of the game for decades. He'd accidentally run in to a part of his shadow. The energy and thoughts it unleashed were intense. Some days without sleep. The sexual feelings kept him coming back for more, they were dark and they felt good at the same time. Along the way, his inner worrier had concerns that he might never sleep again, that his sexual thoughts would become overpowering obsessions, that he was transforming into who-knows-what. To top things off he had body twitches as if his cells were re-aligning (or something). Once, he thought he saw a "light-entity" move across his bedroom, and generally felt really spooked for many days. He had no context for this, no person or textbook or teaching that could tell him what the hell was going on. It wasn't a pretty time.

He had started journalling again too, after having taken a break for a few years. There was plenty of ammunition to write about. He would write his life story for a few hours and then run to his journal to help make sense of what he was going through, to give a little space and some distance to the process that was unfolding. One night, a part of himself, a very irrational one that "wants what it wants and that's that" (you can perhaps call it the inner child, but don't get too caught up on the label), started talking. Not only expressing verbally, but using his hands too. He was becoming a witness in the truest sense, not even sure who was controlling his body. Who responded was his inner therapist. After an all-night dialogue, he'd discovered things about himself and the way things work that could probably rival an LSD trip. On one hand it was illuminating and on the other hand he didn't feel in control of the process. He didn't know where it was going to go or whether he would ever get back to some sort of "normal".

A couple of weeks after the initial explosion into the unknown, he decided to write a letter to a friend to share what he'd uncovered. In the process, he poured out everything he could. It was amazing. In fact, to him it might have been the most amazing thing that was ever written, the most important discovery ever expressed. That letter might just lead to the transformation of humanity. Once it circulated and people saw it, the letter would serve to shatter their self-delusion and they would instantly become enlightened. Like a tidal wave hitting shore, it would overpower everything in its wake. It was too much to imagine. A thought came through his mind that this was what his entire life up to that point had been about. Every sorrow, every challenge, every terrible time had helped him to put all the pieces together and discover the nature of existence and to free existence from suffering. The next thought was that, since he'd fulfilled his life's purpose, he was no longer needed. He'd figured it out, shared it for the benefit of others, and at any moment the universal vacuum cleaner would come along and suck him away...just when he was getting the hang of being human!

He had worked himself up quite nicely. That night, he had no idea what was possible. Infinite possibilities became very possible, and that scared the shit out of him. What if with one thought he could end existence? He heard from the voice that was ready and willing for him to jump off the cliff into oblivion, or at least into total madness. It tempted him. Told him that God/Truth/enlightenment was in fact there. Then a thought came that he'd die the next day in a car accident; what's worse, he got the shivers that he believed told him the thought was true. He had the "opportunity" then and there to be ok with it, to "surrender" to the "fact" that he would die tomorrow. But it didn't sit right with him. Fuck no, in terror he decided that whether or not the voice was right in saying that surrendering to it would mean his liberation, it was too much to bear. This was not a mind battle he would win. His mind was convinced that he might die the next day and no amount of consoling otherwise helped.

It had never been so important for him to breathe. One breath. One breath. Not being sure of anything. Maybe he should have jumped off the cliff, though that would have meant putting his total faith in the voice of oblivion and accepting he would die the next day. He chose not to. The moment was certain, not the next, and that was as far as he was willing to be certain of. He went through that next day with his mind in massive concern, not knowing if the next moment would lead to his demise. As one concern faded, another replaced it. A thought came that what if he was wrong about a car accident, but that today would be the day and come in some other form? Or, maybe, since it had been after midnight when the initial thought had come, the voice had meant one day later?

He was on a trip. A bad trip. Anything was possible. Death was about to pounce on him at any moment. The story that had once assured him he'd be safe was now bringing terror with every step. Every small sound or word or sight could be the "signal" that he was about to be destroyed. His mind was looking for it, for the sign of its demise, and it was finding it all over.

No, he did not die, at least not his body. Nor did he break completely into madness. Close enough, though. A part of him seemed to have died, or at least diminished, that December. The part that wants to know the future—for, if the future is bad, would he really want to know? The part that relies on the illusion of safety for its sense of safety—for, if that illusion, the story that is, is taken away, what's left but the terror of its falseness? The part that wants some ultimate, final purpose—for, when that purpose is completed, what's left but to be recycled?

These were ugly ways of discovering truths, of discovering parts of himself, of discovering that personal exploration does not need to involve cliff diving. It's a big landscape of bullshit, the human psyche. Discoveries can be made slowly or quickly, by choice or by accident. What he decided in the end (so to speak) was that exploration of the mystery was a requirement of life and he could be the victim or be the master. He decided to become a master, and in so doing became a master (so he likes to think!)

In hindsight, the Jed McKenna books warned of all this: that enlightenment, the "quest for truth," isn't so much about finding the truth but running into the million-and-one lies one is attached to. That it can get pretty damn ugly. Thanks, Jed.

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