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Posts Tagged ‘enlightenment’

I have been gone for a long time. However, there is a good reason: I have been writing a book on the broader topic of spirituality that includes personal details that I have not revealed on Soulbank. The following is a chapter from that book–I hope you enjoy reading it and will be looking forward to more ‘teaser’ chapters.

I read a book one night: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer. Mr. Singer believes that anyone can achieve enlightenment at any point by simply allowing reality to exist and flow through us without the mediation of our emotions, thoughts, and judgments. A quote that nicely sums up the main thrust of his book is this one: “Deep inner release is a spiritual path in and of itself. It is the path of nonresistance, the path of acceptance, the path of surrender. It’s about not resisting energies as they pass through you.” (250) I decided that if that is ‘all’ that it took to become enlightened, that I could do it. And so I decided to put into practice everything that Mr. Singer suggested.

The first night after I made this decision, I lay on the floor and cried. Emotions needed to flow through me in order to not control and dominate my life and my decisions. I released the pain of my daughter moving to England and taking away the security blanket for my life, exposing my fears and vulnerabilities. I writhed in anger over the mass shootings of recent weeks, the tragic situation at the Southern border, the fact of the hottest July in recorded history, and the deep, painful divisions that our country is living through. I felt like a bottomless pit of pain, but after awhile, the intensity of what I was feeling subsided, and there was a measure of peace.

The next day, I decided that my emotions, judgments, preferences, desires, and fears would ‘pass through me’ without affecting my clear view of reality: the present moment. I downed a theanine gummy (an amino acid present in green tea that is supposed to help with anxiety and lack of focus) and drank a mug of English Breakfast tea while playing Scrabble with my husband. About 30 minutes later, I started to feel very, very strange. The room lightened and colors intensified, and I experienced the bizarre sensation of my head opening up and allowing my consciousness to expand into the room. I seemed to be losing myself as a body and became more of an awareness. The instant reaction was fear. I didn’t want to ‘go’ where this bizarre process was taking me, because I had not intended to experience cosmic unity today. I wanted to hold on to the everyday, mundane reality that I love so dearly, which included taking my turn at Scrabble; but the Universe was not allowing it.

Panic sets in for me when I cannot find a ‘reason’ for a sensation or an experience, and when I cannot control the sensation or experience. I was not directing this expansion of my mind, nor could I stop it from happening. One hundred milligrams of a theanine gummy intended for children could not possibly be the causative agent for what felt like the beginning of a full-blown psychedelic trip. Instead of allowing panic to take over and determine the course of the next hour or so, I lay down on the sofa and decided not to fight the process, even if it made no sense to my terrified mind.

I cried and shook as waves of emotion and energy passed through me. I do not know what had to be released, for any sense of myself as an independent entity vanished, and I was simply a being experiencing something that I was unable to name, comprehend, or describe. “I” was not there to perform those functions. My job was to stay on the couch and not fight it. Indeed, I doubt there was any way to fight the experience, for ‘it’ was far too powerful to be managed.

After about an hour or so, I was able to sit up. I was woozy and confused by what had transpired, but I felt clear, in the way one feels after crying hard for a long time. I was even able to continue playing Scrabble, losing for the second time that weekend. I would love to say that my experience on the sofa cleansed me of my ego and took me straight to Enlightenment, but I found myself angry and resentful about losing the Scrabble game and realized, yet again, that I had not achieved the goal of life ‘passing through me’, even though I had just experienced life passing through me while pressed into the couch! What happened?

I have written before that I do not believe in a ‘path’ or that such a thing as “Enlightenment” truly exists. In fact, I view the concept as an ideal that can easily turn into a spiritual trap where the ego involves itself and starts charging money for the experience at a nice resort where people can smoke toad venom and enlighten themselves instantly. The idea that anyone could ever become–in Mr. Singer’s words–that “open, that complete, and that whole” seemed impossible, idealistic, and in a sense, a denial of human nature at its most fundamental level. We are material beings safeguarding our survival, and to think that we could ever simply allow reality to pass through us without creating meaning around it is something of a pipe dream. After all, do any of us KNOW anyone who does this? Can any of us say that we have met an Enlightened being? And how do we KNOW that someone has achieved such a state?

Stories about gurus who devolve into licentious and criminal behavior are everywhere. I had friends I respected as spiritual seekers who took the content of their cosmic experiences and used that to open psychedelic retreats and charge significant amounts of money to be ‘guides’ for others’ transformative experiences. So many people I know are trying to earn a living selling Enlightenment to lost and desperate souls looking to be happy. I am deeply wary of anyone who profits from spirituality. I watch myself carefully when I write for an audience, even if that audience is very small. I do not know what Enlightenment is, and I do not preach anything to anyone.

And yet, how do I explain experiences that force me to ‘give up’ and allow emotions and strange energies to run through me? How do I explain the psychedelic or spiritually transformative experience? I do not explain it, because I have come to the conclusion that explaining those moments is fundamentally impossible. The force behind such cosmic connections is so mysterious and ineffable that words, even lots and lots of words, do very little to transmit the meaning of the experience. I do not know if these tsunamis of spiritual openings have anything to do with what we think of as Enlightenment. After all, right afterwards, I experienced anger and fear, irritation and resentment, and I did not get the sense that I was ‘liberated’ from any of those emotions.

I think about the basic teachings of Jesus, and they are pretty basic, indeed: Love one another. Easy to say, very hard to do. I think that, in the end, if you can manage to love yourself and others enough that you don’t cause any damage and can perhaps sow the seeds of compassion for the human situation, then you have accomplished as much as can be expected of yourself and others. I am someone who reacts, holds on, rages, refuses to accept a great many situations I find unjust, and is generally quite emotional. I do not think that I am capable of allowing my emotions, thoughts, and judgments to flow through me without any identification with them.

I am willing to admit that I could be wrong about Enlightenment. Perhaps it is achievable by some people; maybe I know someone who fits the criteria, and I am not aware of it, because that is how unenlightened I actually am. When Mr. Singer states, “You truly can reach a state in which you never have any more stress, tension, or problems for the rest of your life”, I want to throw the book across the room. I do not know if I WANT a life without stress, tension, or problems, because all those undesirable states and situations propel me to take action and figure things out. Without resistance, there is no pushing through to the other side of your limitations. The chick must peck her way out of the egg in order to build the muscles to survive. If she passively accepted her state of being in the egg, she would die.

The struggle for survival shapes and creates us. Of course, sometimes we must give up the fight. Nobody wants to die flailing and screaming, although I suspect I might be one of those who do not ‘go gently into that good night’. I will probably resist until the last moment, when I surrender myself to God with a completely open heart. And perhaps, we are supposed to surrender to God on a regular basis, just to remind ourselves who is in charge. Resistance might be futile, but it is so very human. I am here to be human; I am not God, nor do I aspire to be a spiritual leader.

There is something liberating about stating that you do not have a clue how something works. I do not understand the overall design of the Universe, how consciousness works, what God is, or whether or not enlightenment is possible. What I love is the process, the ‘seeing through a glass darkly’. I suppose I adore the mystery, the fight, the illumination, and the falling into humanity and ignorance, only to climb back up and start the process all over again.

May you enjoy the journey as well, and if you find yourself enlightened along the way, send me an email explaining how you got there and what it feels like. I’m guessing not like I’m feeling now. I want iced cream and a nap.

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I decided to read some old diaries, from years back. I had expectations: I would see how much I had evolved over the last year, how truly different I had become after all of my spiritual experiences, and I would feel compassion for the Kirsten of yesterday, pre-Spiritual Awakening. Perhaps, I pondered, I could hold a ceremony for that poor woman shredded by anxiety and beaten down by depression; a ‘soul healing’ for who I used to be.

I read avidly, looking for all the signs that I had, indeed, achieved Enlightenment. The more I read, the more my spirits fell. Something’s wrong. I did not see much difference. I poured over diary after diary, hoping that I would see how much I had transformed. I didn’t see it. Instead, I saw that I was the same. THE SAME. After a year of dazzling and shocking revelations, wild visions, intense talks with God and the Universe, countless hours of meditation, regular experiences in states of altered consciousness, a total spiritual breakdown, trance states, taking to the dead, reading people’s minds, channeling, you freakin’ name it, nothing fundamental was different about me.

I read back through Soulbank, hoping that I would see evidence of my progress there. Nope. What I wrote in 2009 followed the same–or similar– themes as now. I poured over everything I wrote over the last year, looking for huge shifts in my Ascension Process. Nope. I had revelations, forgot about them, had them again; I would swear something was new and shocking, but actually it was an understanding I had arrived at years prior. This was something similar to my Nine Churches in Six Years journey, which led me from the Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church to community churches to something called New Thought. I arrived at the end where I had started out: confused. Angry. “Why,” I thought, “am I not getting anywhere?”

I ask the same question now: “WHY am I not getting anywhere?” The answer is quite plain and simple: there is nowhere to go. There is no final, spiritual destination. There is no correct path, no best way to Get There. There is, actually, no path at all. I always thought that a moment would come when you knew that you had arrived: you were happy, almost all the time, and everything–all the Big Mysteries–would be solved. You would have found peace and radiate love. Children and animals would naturally gravitate towards you, because they sensed that you contained a Buddha or Jesus-like radiance. Dammit. I was gonna be HOLY.

I started reading about monks who had spent 20 years meditating and found that they were still angry, judgmental, fearful, and confused. Sometimes they were happy and calm; sometimes they hated everything and everybody. That made no sense to me–isn’t the point of all these experiences that we come to peace with ourselves and our God? And isn’t that peace that ‘surpasses all understanding’ supposed to be permanent? What’s going on here?

I myself was very judgmental for quite some time regarding paranormal investigating. It was a pseudo science, it was pointless, it was providing no solid evidence for life after death, and so on. At some point over the last year, it hit me: just as there is no right way to figure out reality and God and the Universe and the nature of consciousness, there is no WRONG way to figure it all out, either. If the Ghost Radar and weird audio are leading you somewhere you want and need to go, then that is just as valid as attending Mass, meditating for hours, praying, chanting, spinning, or eating strange berries that make you see serpents in the clouds. Who was I, or anyone, to judge what method was best for finding yourself or discovering the secrets of the Cosmos?

Last January, I went through hell. I had traumatic memories surface, I had odd and scary thoughts that I couldn’t control, I experienced emotions that terrified me and made no sense. I truly thought that I was losing my mind. I felt energy run through my body like I was some kind of live wire or mega-charged battery. I couldn’t sleep, I felt dizzy and spacey, and I was sure that I was losing my grip on reality. I dutifully trundled off to therapy, meditated, prayed, and attended support groups for such things as Spiritual Emergencies, Kundalini rising, Spiritual Awakenings, Ascension, Light Workers, and so on and so forth. I howled at the moon and found my spirit animal. I took classes on mediumship. I pondered becoming a shaman (HA! Nobody should want to be a shaman) or at least, a spiritual guide for the nether worlds of the soul. I meditated until I entered trances and had visions. It faded away after school started in February and used up all my energy.

But my research had just begun. What had I gone through? I read thousands of pages on Kundalini openings, yoga, and other spiritual practices that scared the crap out of me–they had dire warnings about Kundalini energy making people insane or suicidal. That, of course, kicked off my anxiety. Then, I found out that menopause has the SAME SYMPTOM LIST. Yup. Perhaps everything that I experienced and labeled as deep, spiritual transformations was simply the result of hormones dropping and rising precipitously and messing with my neurotransmitters. That realization was quite sobering and more than a tad depressing. Was any of what I experienced real in any sense at all?

There are many articles that link menopause to spiritual enlightenment or Kundalini rising. For those of you who don’t know, Kundalini energy is supposedly stored at the base of your spine and rises up through the seven chakras. At least, I THINK that there are seven chakras. If you block the rising energy, it will negatively affect one of your chakras and cause physical symptoms. It is often experienced as heat spreading up the torso. If you have ever had a hot flash, assuming you’re a woman of a certain age, that’s EXACTLY what Kundalini energy is supposed to feel like. “Menopause is Enlightenment,” one website affirms. If this is Enlightenment, it kind of sucks.

I couldn’t, of course, figure out whether or not menopause was the Ultimate Cause of the difficult emotions and upsetting thoughts that plagued me for several weeks. In fact, nothing really explained it to my satisfaction: too many life situations could have caused it, and the explanations ran the gamut from psychological issues to hormonal imbalance to spiritual emergence. In the end, there was no way to define or pigeon hole it; it was weird, it was unexpected, it was inexplicable. However, I did learn one thing: the thoughts, feelings, and crazy energies were NOT the problem. My reaction to them was the problem. I panicked; I freaked out; I spent endless hours online trying to figure out what was ‘wrong’ with me.

As usual, anxiety was the villain in my story. It always is. It always has been. I could have chosen to simply let it go, observe it all, find it curious but pay it no undue attention. My need to label it, to find a box to stick it in, created pain and confusion. It has taken me a very long time to figure this out, but here it is: you don’t need to label every experience or rank it as desirable or terrible. Spirituality is a very vague concept, indeed. Everything we do and are is ‘spiritual’, if you believe that there is more to us than meat. All roads lead to Rome, if you have a sincere desire to learn and commit yourself to loving yourself and others as part of your search. Stay off the Internet. Trust me, it leads nowhere. Even therapy was mostly unhelpful, as every individual has her own take on what it is you are experiencing, and that could end up confusing or upsetting you. Don’t let other people define the experiences you are having–and don’t worry that you don’t know if your lightheadedness is the start of an Out of Body Experience or just PMS. Any experience can be interpreted as spiritual, physical, or psychological. You can convince yourself that you are going crazy in a thousand ways–that’s how anxiety works.

There is no Path. There is no destination. There is nowhere that you are supposed to end up, spiritually speaking. You are already where you need to be. You are already spiritually developed and have been since birth. The mere fact of your existence and your conscious experience is enough to prove that you ARE the mystery and the answer to the mystery. There is nothing you are missing, need to find, or have to track down. Sometimes, we remember who we really are and think that we’ll never lose that revelation. Then we forget. Life is a cycle of remembering our divinity and falling back asleep. There is no achievement, just an awareness.

I don’t even call any of this a Spiritual Awakening anymore. It’s more like a Remembering and a Forgetting. The fact that I remembered some extraordinary events from another lifetime does not mean anything in and of itself. What mattered is how I reacted and responded to the memories flooding back into my consciousness from past lives and this life. The physical effects of this old reality coming back online were quite real and often astounding–I was frequently distracted by my visions and new perceptions. But ┬áit was simply my body adjusting to the realignment of energies flowing through me. That energy might be called Kundalini or perhaps simply Spirit; in any case, we all experience this to one degree or another during transformative moments.

Spirit doesn’t change who you are. It reminds you who you are. Spirit wakes you up; it doesn’t ‘choose’ you, or confer special powers to you. You might change your circumstances, but you’re still who you always were. That’s the moment of realization: the search leads you back to yourself. The Path goes from Point A to Point A. It’s both liberating and depressing: liberating because you can engage in any spiritual practice you choose without worrying that it’s not the ‘right’ one, and depressing if you were hoping that you would be a different person after all the Experiences die down. Nope. You are always you. Always have been, always will be.

Understanding that the Universe loves you for who you are right now, is cause for celebration. That is the true spiritual epiphany.

 

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Bowie Major Tom

The year started with my hero vanishing into space. Others followed, creating a vacuum where my teenage soul used to be. I defined myself with “Major Tom” and every song on Purple Rain. When people die, my beliefs tell me that they are still ‘here,’ just on the other side of a thin veil. I didn’t know them, of course; it wasn’t their physical demise that slammed me into shock. It was the past that disappeared. The past was always already gone, so what do I mourn? I’m not sure. I don’t know.

The news in 2016 just got worse and worse. Syria. Trump. Russian hacking. Climate changing faster and faster. Cancer diagnosis in the family. Depression and other issues surfacing like dead fish in a pond. It seemed as if the downturn in my mood paralleled the swirling misery of the election and the general feeling of anxiety that permeates everything concerning human affairs.

There were the highlights, as well: I became the Project MATCH Faculty Coordinator and was able to assist in the training of some very talented and smart interns. I felt that I was making some real progress towards the betterment of education for the students in the LA Community College District. It was the best summer in a long time. We were finally able to buy a house, up in the mountains of Santa Susana. In the morning, I no longer hear the 101 Freeway blaring through the windows. I hear an anemic rooster, toads and owls hooting in the distance. I feel protected by the giant boulders and ancient oak trees. The spirits around this area are powerful and very, very old. This has allowed me peace of mind, even as the world falls into pieces.

This is where the knot is. I have a peaceful environment in which to contemplate all the things I didn’t understand as a younger version of myself. My bubble of ignorance burst three times: in 1997, 2002 and 2012. I was told I was going to die from a progressive disease in ’97 (that turned out to be a misdiagnosis, but I lived with it for almost a year), my ex husband moved out and divorced me in 2002 and in 2012 my kid had some serious issues which I am not at liberty to discuss in detail. After 2012, we moved three times in three years. The idea that things get easier and more understandable as you get older is bullshit. I understand less now and everything is more confusing and complicated than it was at any other time in my past.

My nickname in Middle School was “Polly Pure”. I was always told how naive I was, how easy to dupe and fool. I assumed everybody was nice and good, and that the world was always moving towards a better, more perfect state. I believed in constant spiritual progression: all things were destined to achieve perfection. I was such an idiot that I actually thought I had achieved enlightenment, somewhere around 2010 or 2011. I truly believed that I was on the fast track to Paradise, Oneness with the Brahma, the Source, whatever. I resent the fact that the world showed me otherwise.

The world showed me that I was (and am) a spiritual infant, and the state of affairs on our planet is regressing. Not only are we not moving forward, we are traveling backwards, undoing what little good we had managed to accomplish. As for people: nope, they are not inherently good. They are propelled by insecurities and fears that drive them to do terrible things to themselves and others, all in the name of protecting fragile egos. My entire world view was based on progress and enlightenment, and that paradigm has been shot to hell. Therefore, my view of time has been turned upside down. The arrow of time from now into the future is pure illusion, along with the idea of future perfection. We go in circles, falling backwards, struggling to break out of the present only to fall into the past and repeat, repeat, repeat.

All progress is individual, I fear. And it is not necessarily accomplished in this life. The arc of progress is LONG and requires so much more time than I thought, if such an idea exists at all. I would like to think that there is ultimate transformation after X number of lives wind themselves down, but I don’t know. I just don’t know. Maybe it’s two steps forward, one step back, and I’m in the middle of the one step back. One thing I do know:

Polly Pure was beaten with a barbed-wire covered bat and lies bleeding and dying in the ashes of her naive dreams for the world. I am waiting for Major Tom and Prince’s elevator to take her up, to be saved from her mistakes and her lost hopes.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PWH

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