Monday, February 24, 2020

Journey without distance

Journey without distance to a place I never left

Confounding, but true: Time heals all wounds. The terrors and darkness of last month are now nothing more than memories, to ponder or not. I am basking in the sunshine of my true self, no longer held captive by the shadows of fear and doubt.   

One of my greatest revelations from last month was the realization that fear thoughts, horrible imaginings that go ‘boo’ in the night, are not my enemies, but friends. Friends who are goading me to wake up from the false ideas: I am my thoughts or, I am that which my thoughts are telling me I am. (Cogito, ergo sum).(The truth is, I am only when I am not thinking. I am the consciousness that brings thoughts into my awareness. I am the silent observer, not the observed.)

That knowledge has been the best piece of news since I found out that gaining enlightenment is but a game of pure consciousness. When I pretend the Truth has to be found, I am pretending to forget I am already enlightened so I can experience the indescribable joy of finding it again.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Leaving separation

Leaving Separation

I had now attained enough peace to toggle between the calm that came from conscious breathing and the stability the mantra, ‘Here and Now,’ brought back into the light. After one week of practice, I was able to summon up Peace and reside in its truth for ten to twenty percent of the day. The moment I let my thoughts wander, the pits of hell flamed up within my consciousness filled my mind with unbearable anxiety, and I fell back into the fiery domain of the ego.  

In moments of sanity, I began to share my internal experiences with my husband of forty years. This was a luxury I was denied in that first week. A severe bought of laryngitis had forced me into silence and forced me to bear my fears alone.

Although I felt no relief in sharing my agonies and insights, I did experience enough respite to reach out into my dwindling circle of friends, hoping they would share if they had gone through something similar and how they had mastered it. My first realization was, the circlet had not dwindled as much as I’d thought it had over the years. The new-found knowledge that I was not alone in my fears, that most of my friends had gone through similar bouts of anxiety, lent me even more strength. To feel alone in your fears, isolated, without any line to the outside, is a barren and heartless place to reside.

Never was I more thankful for my partner’s waning memory. A fit mind with impeccable memory periods would have gone insane after listening to my rants for more than two days. Although I had to remind him daily that I was on the verge of suicide, I was filled with relief that he remained relatively untouched by my vivid descriptions of the inner workings of my mind.

With conscious breathing, the mantra, the opportunity to talk things out, I was able to create enough space to take the next step.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Here and Now

Here and now.

After repeated attempts to anchor myself with my breath, I attained enough calm to realize I could also incorporate this technique into dealing with the bubbling thoughts in my mind: watch them, follow them, and let them flow; and all this without getting attached.

At first, the sticky tentacles of fear attached themselves to my attention, attempting to pull me down into their dark domain. I riveted my focus on my breath. With patience, I eventually noticed that the smaller fear-thoughts were losing their hold. But the darker, anxiety-ridden thoughts still had the power to keep me from gaining a foothold on peace, causing me to fall again, like Icarus, from the light. My saving grace was to keep pulling myself back into the present moment. Even a second was enough to elevate my despairing soul enough to glimpse, once more the light within. Soon, I was able to glimpse a space of silence between those perilous thoughts and, with great forbearance, the silent spaces became more profound. In the presence of silent peace, the chit chat of the mind grew fainter, and within minutes, I felt again the sporadic echos of serenity.

Though I regained fleeting moments of sanity those first days, I soon realized I would need something more concrete to keep my attention focused on the space of silence and knowing. The breath, as powerful a tool as it was, was too porous, allowing too many of the treasonous thoughts to seep through its walls, causing my inner observer to pixelate and fade.

I needed a mantra. Words were more tangible than feelings at this point, better suited to block out the ravage of negative thoughts for more extended periods.

With that realization, the simple phrase, ‘Here and Now’ surfaced. (The wisdom of the saints in two simple words.)

Inhaling slowly, I chanted the word ‘here.’ Exhaling, equally as controlled and focused, I whispered the word ‘now.’ With each repetition, I forced myself to feel was happening in the present moment: the feeling in my feet, the sensation in my hands, the tightness between my shoulders, the temperature outside and inside my body, the breath, the thoughts, etc.

‘Here and now.’ How often I’d heard or read about the magic of the present moment; how often I summoned it up on the sunny days of my journey back to my true self. Yet, how easily I forgot the principle when my ego was screaming its truths in my ear, ‘You’re an aged, old man, nothing but a relique of your young self. No one can see your inner beauty, they only see your increasing frailty. Friends and family are gone from your life. Your body is destined to suffer loneliness, frailty, rejection, abandonment. And then, you die!’

The words were so loud that first week, so constant and real, they left no room to notice the real truth about my Self: my eternal, expanding consciousness, a Thought in the Mind of Almighty Being. My ego had gained too much strength, bombarding my mind with arguments to the contrary.  (The physical illness I’d also contracted at this time, the bacterial infection in my throat, sapped what little will I had to affirm what I knew was true.)

But I persevered. One breath at a time; ‘Here,’ ‘Now.’

The mantra returned my mind to spaces of bliss-filled silence that increased with dedicated practice. ‘Here and now’ was my lifeguard, leading me ever nearest to moments of sanity where I could build upon that which I knew to be the Truth: that I was the observer, not the observed.   Though the Truth still remained elusive, as fleeting as a snow-flake on the gust of chilled winter-wind, I persevered. I was walking a razor’s edge with the Eternal Truth on one side, and the dismal truth of the ego on the other.
 I prayed for the day when my humor would return and I would be able to look back and laugh at everything I had been imagining. But that still as far away as a full head of hair. ;-)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Finding the breath.

Looking back into the darkness, I remember my first objective was to still the mind. Alas, even on the sunniest of days, this is a formidable task. When the sky clouds over and the light becomes dim, seemingly impossible.

How then to still the agitated mind?

In yoga, I often tell my students that the breath mirrors the mind’s state. And, vice versa: when the mind begins to still, the breath becomes ever gentler.  If the advice was good enough for a room full of students, why not for me?

With what little control I could muster, I began to regulate my agitated breathing pattern: long breath out, slow breath in. I felt an immediate change; until the ego/mind discovered what I was up to, after which, the dark fantasies became even more abhorrent. But I persevered. One step at a time. Breathe. watch the breath.

With effort, I soon achieved enough peace to notice there were two forces at work here: Peace and fear. Such an easy concept to decern in phases of sanity, but when fear’s raging, almost impossible to get a grip on the concept of two minds working at the same time.

That was my first clue that my fears were caused by thoughts in my mind, in the dark thoughts that were keeping me from seeing the truth of the situation. Immediate relief; if I could discern the workings of the brain, it proved I wasn’t my fear. I was that which was observing the mind.  The relief was fragile for, I realized long ago, the ego is a formidable challenger able to know and bring up my worst possible case scenarios, land me in a reality of dismal thoughts with devastating outcomes, make it so real I continuously revert to the belief I am my ego, my fears, my mind.

My next objective: to get my sane Self, the silent observer, back in control.

But how?

By focusing my entire attention on the breathing. In the midst of fear and darkness, keeping my focus on the breath.

One day ended and I was still alive. I thought about throwing in my cards and ending it a couple of times, but also realized I had now found a way out. Ridiculously simple and difficult to keep in action, but once there’s a way, there’s hope.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Journey into Darkness

Well, it’s been a long haul, a head and body trip that took me to Hell and back. Hard to believe it only took two weeks and some odd days. I say some odd days because I know I still have a horde of butterflies flapping their wings in my belly.

All too late, I discovered landslide had its roots in an ill composed intention. At the end of December, I was so proud of my body for holding out the stress and strain of the stage performances and regular yoga classes, I promised it a three-week rest as a reward, a time of doing nothing, a time to allow it to recuperate.

Wrong wording, I realized later. The Universe took me literally.

 I thought I would give my self some time to read and write, perhaps take an outing with my husband to Dresden or Rothenburg, a few walks in the English Garden, a leisurely bought of window shopping here in our neighborhood.

Obviously not what my body understood who, it seems, wanted full and total rest: no long meditation sessions, regenerative yoga on the living room rug, no strolls or sightseeing tours. A bacterial infection took hold in my throat. Within days, I was so sick, I couldn’t even make it to the corner for groceries. (Thank God, Gusch waited two weeks before he contracted the same illness.)

The only thing I was capable of doing, and that in grand style, was to fall victim to my thoughts. Not those idle thoughts that wonder what I’ll cook for dinner, watch on TV, what I think about the book I’m reading. This turned out to be hand to hand combat with my worst fears ever: the darkest, most hopeless of notions of desolation and abandonment.  Another ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ encounter of the third kind. Hideous shit that makes me think anything, even death, would be preferable.

Thank God I had my husband who listened patiently to my ravings, offered advice and understanding, vowed his eternal love. (Thank God he has trouble remembering things, even two minutes after they happen, or we both would have ended as blithering idiots in 2 days.)

My dark night ravaged my mind for two weeks. (For those who believe that time speeds up when you get older: that may be true when the sun is shining, and everything is coming up roses, when you have a new project that needs your undivided attention, when you’re deeply engrossed in a new book; THOSE were NOT happening. Believe me. I was so under the weather, I couldn’t imagine I would ever recover enough to start teaching again.  It was the longest period of my life. Think: puberty multiplied by 3,000!)

 Now that I am finally able to get my nose out of water again,  I would like to share a few of the things I went through, hoping you might gain from my experience, and your road will not be so bumpy.

Stay tuned.