I’m reading a book about Spiritual Emergency. Turns out, AWAKENING can look a lot like MENTAL ILLNESS. Some of the most enlightened, revolutionary, wise and universally respected (sometimes only after their death) people have had these intense periods of what might look like crazy to anyone who doesn’t understand the process. And then they emerge with a vision, a goal, a way of seeing things that shifts society.
There are spiritual leaders. I dare you, think of one spiritual leader that DIDN’T go through a “Dark Night of the Soul” or some kind of internal or external crisis. Gandhi, The Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Jesus, The Buddha, Oprah (yes, I’m counting her as a spiritual leader). It seems the crisis is part of the making.
And there are thought leaders. Again, which one of these folks didn’t seem mad at least for a period, or within the context of their “present day” — Watson & Crick, Darwin, Einstein, Carl Jung (his family held back publishing some of his works for 50 years because they were afraid it would discredit his more mainstream work), Galileo, etc. etc. etc.
And, of course, political leaders. I’ll leave it to you for those names to pop into your head.
And family members, and loved ones, and co-workers. You know them. There are some people you meet who just “get it.” They are aligned, easier to get along with. Purposeful – Not driven; Not goal-oriented; Not Type A. Dig back, how did they get there? Yeah, you see it too, right?
So I get this. I don’t LIKE it, but I get it. Break down leads to an opening and an exposure of the raw materials, a closeness to the universe that lets you find your mission. And then AFTER that, you get to be the zen cool headed peaceful calm yogi grandma one that everyone likes. I wish there were a short cut. Is there anyone who just wakes up one day without crisis? I haven’t met them. I’m certainly not pulling it off, but I’m finding a little bit of space around the process.
I’ve been doing a lot of yoga and meditation lately. For some people, awakening might happen in prayer, or in the art studio, or on top of the mountain, or at church. For me, its in the Ashram (or in bed, but that’s another chapter). At first, I felt all this pressure to show up already calm & fit. When my mind raced, or the pose didn’t come instantly, I had this whole berating conversation in my head that made my heart want to go back to the couch. It happened in relationship too. I’d plan a beautiful night with friends, be smack in the middle of it, and find myself teary, or withdrawn, or having other yucky feelings. Lately, I’m learning to just let it be. I wanted to just name the yucky thing then let it go, or see the pose and then make myself master it instantly, but that’s not how it works. If you are sad, you are sad. The only letting go is of the need to control or DO something about the sad.
In fact, the yoga class has a rhythm that perfectly mirrors crisis. I usually go charging in with optimistic up-beat myths about how graceful, strong and non-sweaty I will be. The first few minutes, when the yogi gets us in the mood, I feel like anything is possible. Then the hard part starts. There are things I just can’t do. Sometimes I shake. Sometimes I tip and fall. Sometimes I can’t even bear to try, so I settle down into child’s pose and surrender. About 3/4 through is the worst. I’m hot, tired, thirsty. Everything is sore, everyone else seems more adept than me. I start resenting the $15 that could have bought me pizza and a movie. But I don’t shout “fuck you all” and go running from the room (like I want to) and I’m learning to send a few extra breaths and love to that desire. And then comes the quiet part. We finally get to lay down, the cool air blows across the floor, the music gets gentle, and I feel the benefit of the work.
Because I’m finding that there IS a way of understanding the process that is more forgiving, more empathetic, and I’m wishing I’d stumbled on this earlier. Maybe when I was having 3 migraines a week and spitting nails at my family, maybe when I was turning my life upside down without any clue where I was going, maybe I could have NOT “pathologized” it as a problem, but instead just breathed through this “opportunity for growth.” If you met me at any one of those moments and took a snap shot, you could judge that I was NOT someone you’d want in your life. Maybe we should see this journey of being here on this planet as just that – a journey. Maybe we could be more forgiving when we meet an asshole by simply noting that at this phase, they are still on their way?
Don’t get me wrong — I’m a strong proponent of therapy. And pharmaceuticals properly administered. But my thinking on some of this is shifting. Sometimes the only way through a pain is THROUGH it, and when we numb the pain, I believe we prolong the awakening. When we avoid the hardest feelings, when we bubble wrap our children to prevent them from struggle, we deny growth itself.
I realize this is not something I am inventing or discovering for the first time. Just wanted to hear myself say it today, a day of relative calm and sanity, so that when the next wave of whatever bullshit I’m supposed to go through to become who the universe wants me to be, I have this little reminder. Breathe. You are getting there.