Out of isolation, into total communion

What is isolation but to feel that your suffering is unique to you, and that no one else could possibly understand what is occurring inside you?

The fragmented society of individuals, where people walk by without knowing you, means you can be surrounded by any amount of quantity, but no quality. A million, million people can see you but not one make you feel like a person sentient.

Who cares about you, or can afford to, as orders from above dictate a false economy of scrambling for life-boats and tight purse strings (known in political rhetoric as ‘austerity’)?

The troubles and anxieties of moderns were unknowns to ancients who had fates and gods. The suffering of isolation must weigh heavily on any utilitarian’s scales, marking the failure of our times to bring happiness, even with all of our technologies and advantages of knowledge.

The prescribed panacea to the isolation feeds into it, for it is no panacea at all but false promise. Facebooks and Instagrams and such non-communities distance us from sentience, that of ourselves and others. Addictive, fleeting and empty mediums.

Like filling a void with dust.

I do not want to be made of dust, to be insubstantial and misunderstood but who has the time?

A final cure for isolation there is not, for any of us can grow old, see their friends and family fade, and be trapped in a non-life on the sixth floor in some grey tower of dying. But for the now we could have far more recognition and true being than is afforded us by soulless digital mediums, if only there were some way to wean people away from the heroin of Facebook.

A true and genuine faith in the transformative power of community is needed, and this high-morale state is the only way we can achieve our goals of egality and ecological health. The cruelty of the system makes it harder and harder for this true resistance to form, but no one ever said a life alienated was ever going to be easy.

Through therapy I am at least able to find someone who can go into me, and in reflection have his own sentience confirmed. After enough sessions so strong a bond is formed that we reach a point of mutuality, even if it is largely me sharing my angst and mental health troubles.

This is an extreme example of healing through being known. If one other person could for one moment understand and feel what it felt like, how much a sorrow would be lifted! Then real healing could rapidly work upon the wounds and I could walk alone some of the way. Imagine if ten people made that time and effort.

If the inflicter will not ever listen, will not those others who have been inflicted?

Isolation is terrible for a person. It can be conceived of as torture, in the long term worse than any physical death. That some particular souls have endured isolation for years because of belief in God, or the stars, or what-have-you, gives little solace. How pathetic for humanity to need higher powers just to fulfil some basic need. Faith is only beautiful to me when it is a thing of aesthetic magnanimity – not desperation and feeble clawing at the skirts of god. I want to surrender my ego for the beauty of the cosmos, not for the vulnerabilities and feelings of alienation threatening within.

I believe in communities and fellowships and kinships upon earth, here and now. To serve each other as the ultimate unity and escape from the icy loneliness threatened by individualist non-society.

There is such a thing as serving yourself before you serve others, but how much easier it is to serve yourself when the others you can serve appreciate you! One does not need to come before the other, and it is foolish to believe one ever will.

If I could be satisfied in myself I would never strive to do anything for the better. If like a monk I could meditate still as a stone I would fathom no art, no songs and no stories, and these creative gifts would wither away, or shrink like a muscle unused. I need you, I hope you need me too.

Total communion is the breaking of boundaries between people and a temporary wholeness. I do not wish to sound too utopian or longing as it happens often already, in the dance hall as much as the bed-chamber as the temple ritual or therapy room. But I would not still feel great bouts of isolation and hellish loneliness if there was not this shield of ice around my soul still – so at least I can say this total communion is not yet regular enough for me!

Look now – we need each other, says the science and says the spirituality, so isn’t it time to put money where mouths are act upon this however we can?

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CBT Part III: Sleep Deprivation

This article has been the hardest of all to write. Not because the subject matter is particularly daunting, deep or traumatic. But because it is the first time I have had to overcome fatigue and bodily wariness in a long, long time. Normally I am straight on a computer after a CBT session, full of energy and a desire to share with the world the wonders of cognitive behavioural stuff! Today, I had to overcome a big barrier of fatigue just to be here writing this, and I can’t promise anything special.

My recent episode of sleep deprivations seems to come from two places. Firstly, A gradual build up of anxieties, natural to living in a busy, expensive, polluted city. Secondly a loud idiot next door who shouts and wails at random intervals into the early hours. And I guess there is ultimately my own anxious personality and thinking patterns which can turn problems into serious problems. This I discovered from today’s CBT.

Lets start with the shouting. At random intervals in the night, a man will shout. It won’t be massively loud, but loud enough to jar you, or awaken you. For me it feels like his voice has entered by body, my being is filled with his sound. It is the exact same wail every time, a supposedly songful sound, but in truth, a horrible, mechanical, repetitive, intrusive load of shite. I came to associate any noise he made with the possibility of a wail or shout, and this puts me into a downward spiral of hyper-vigilance, which prevents me from having decent rest and recovering.

I didn’t realize how much this was effecting me. On the first day it was a nuisance. On the second day it hampered my ability to fall asleep. On the third I bashed on the wall at midnight and came close to telling him to shut the fuck up. On the fourth there was no shouting, but my system was in constant vigiliance, and wouldn’t let me fall asleep easily. This causes feelings of frustration, which develop into rage, something highly unconducive to falling asleep. I was, and still am, catastrophizing about the effects of sleeplessness.

Today in therapy we discussed this and revealed I do have unrealistic expectations and standards. I always feel the need to be active, alert and at around 80-90% capacity. I know we can never be at 100%, but I am very wary of being weak and vulnerable, especially having lived in countless environments where appearing unaware can be dangerous. It might seem obvious that this is a vicious cycle – the more you want to make yourself capable, the more you fear incapability, the more prone you are to anxiety and thus incapability. My therapist was very good in challenging this through questioning, making me run through the evidence and realize the vicious cycle. (But I don’t think it is entirely bad to have such high standards. Human beings are hunters by evolution, it makes sense that we will want to be capable of reacting to threat or opportunity at every possible occasion.)

But with me there is an additional problem, and the heart of the problem. The formation of patterns. I have used patterns to some good effect, building up positive days and exploits to get me out of panic disorder. The downside is, one or two shit days and I fear a bad pattern forming. This rigid thinking really is a double-edged sword, and never far from a downward spiral. The challenge is to be more flexible, to accept more sad days as inevitable. This is not easy to do.

My mind is prone to catastrophizing and thinking the worst. This is why the nuisance of an inconsiderate idiot’s shouting can become something frightening and world-shaking. If I stop fearing the predicted outcome of losing sleep, my body should become less hyper-vigilant toward such disturbances. I don’t feel our session quite went into enough detail. How could it? One hour cannot cover a lifetime of being this way. But it has been very helpful, in hindsight. I am less afraid of sleep deprivation, and less prone to it.

There was also the factor of a build up of anxieties. We tend not to realize sometimes how anxiety gets us. It is like a shadowy assassin, slowly poisoning you drop by drop. For the considerate, this causes internal strife and restlessness. For the inconsiderate, this inspires the harming of others to regain a sense of control. I am sadly in the former category of person, and so the day-to-day banalities of life occasionally build up and make it difficult to function, even at 50% or so.

But its not only the cost of living and banal problems like that. The backdrop of an idiot sitting on America’s nuclear arsenal, catastrophic climate change threatening to wipe out everything that breathes, the dissolution of communities and the watered-down experience of Facebook and the like to replace it, new technologies falling into the hands of powerful capitalists; among a host of world events and tragedies, make anxiety quite a normal and relatively sensible state to be in. How we react to that anxiety is another matter entirely – with fear and paranoia, or the will to change things and become more harmonious. Or like myself, a mixture of the two. Nevertheless, I entirely understand why it is there.

These worries are definitely harming natural, harmonious functioning. Not only in me, but in so many citizens of the ‘so-called’ first world. This includes that most natural and essential, but mysterious, phenomena that is sleep. Sadly, I can’t think of a way around this off the top of my head. Maybe to paraphrase Alain De Botton and to see the odd night of insomnia as a creative gift to be cherished. And to realize that normality isn’t quite so normal, and lots of people have trouble sleeping. This doesn’t give me much solace. If I could sleep eight hours a night without disturbance for the rest of my life, I would.

Learning what I have about my own need for patterns and rigid routines, challenging negative thoughts by seeking evidence, practicing breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation, I should have a decent night’s kip tonight, and be back up to a decent level of running, without fatigue tomorrow. I at least can write a half-way decent article three days into moderate sleep deprivation! I venture to say then that it isn’t quite as bad as anxiety has made it out to be, (even though it is far from ideal). As with all things in life, the breaking of the pattern has made me realize the pattern. Perhaps this is the key to changing it, and perhaps something better will actually emerge from it. I don’t know, lets see.

 

 

 

 

Procrastination

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Procrastination – anxiety in action. The brain’s version of two feet fumbling at the edge of a cliff, refusing to just bungeeeeeeee…

The difference between good and great is that good procrastinates and gets there eventually, whereas great is already one step ahead, having missed the procrastination stage.

The worst that can happen is that you could trap yourself in a spiral of negative thinking and unproductive worry!

This means that you are in control of how you feel today. It means that the insurmountable mountain is actually not that steep.

It means that all of the barriers on your path only seem so high because you are hunkering down.

It means that all of the monsters on your quest are infamous only because other people are so afraid of them.

I think procrastination is a form of enchantment – only, in the negative sense of overestimating threat. I suppose dread and fear is as much a part of the imagination as anything!

But it is not a part of the imagination we want to allow to rule our lives.

To ‘not do’ is not the safe option. To ‘not do’ is how phobias and disorders develop, and once they do, it is not easy to reverse them (believe me, I am in the middle of one).

If only I had done this, if only I had done that – also not useful. Procrastination.  What has been is not necessarily what will be. And who can tell where each path would have led, or what you would be now if you had done what.

What you have before you is what you can mould the most. Your destiny is undeniably a continuous thing which cannot be altered easily, as is your character. But the small steps you can make to begin changing that destiny – they can happen anytime.

And once you start winning and changing, the results are exponential. Find something you can feasibly achieve, and feasibly achieve it.

Procrastination – the product of too much intellect and not enough feeling. Get out of your mind for a moment, and back into the whole of yourself…

There is a world to explore

There are unjust systems to deconstruct

There is your novel to write

There is love to be found

There is music to be played

There are seeds to be planted

There is climate destruction to be undone

There is a Trump to be dethroned

 

(If you like this post, share it on social media and help your friends stop procrastinating!)

Always Impossible

Always somewhere else

Always someone else

Always a different horizon

Always a greener pasture

Always a safer haven

Always a better answer

Always a happier day

Always a prettier maiden

Always somewhere else

But never here

Always something unseen

But nothing felt

Always something impossible

Always someone impossible

Always impossible

The essence of anxiety is a lack of security. The self, seeking to separate itself from the  the dance of birth and death and rebirth that is the flux of all-things, isolates itself from nature. In a messy metaphycial divorce, it tears itself away from its earthly mother.

Once out of its natural being, the ego must fortify itself from its “vantage” position. But the more it fortifies, the more it needs to fortify, for there is always a gap in the castle walls. And the more you get, the more you have to worry about.

This burden of conscience builds and builds upon the back of the separated ego. Given our limited nature as fallible and vulnerable beings, eventually something will give, and the whole facade will fall. This is inevitable, but the separated ego does not want to face this reality.

So it looks forward to an imagined future. One it can never reach, but that is not a problem. To stop would be for it to reveal its futility. Something must keep it going.

I am a creature of this ego. Although I am aware of it, it still holds sway over me. Conditioning must be undone, but I imagine this takes time, and society does not make it easy to be a free, enlightened being interconnected with nature.

Still we must try.

Bodily Logics and the importance of love

Two logics are at work in me. The one is open minded, beyond prejudice, anarchistic, gentle of spirit, enlightened, various, engaged, giving, loving, and artistically dynamic. The other Is stolid, closed, xenophobic, bigoted, ignorant, depressed, materialistic, unencouraging, frustrated, goalless, artless, authoritarian.

Why can I not choose the former over the latter? Every part of me is for it, every part of me wants to belong to it. My body quakes at the negativity of ignorance, or the grunts of frustration from small people with small worlds.  I don’t want these right-wing feelings in me, I don’t want to be anxious or depressed. I don’t want to play some false economy of finding security in wretched familiarity. I don’t want to snap every so often and spit bile at others. I don’t want to be so jaded as to be void of care for those closest to me.

But the choice is not so simple. If it were, these horrid, stolid things could be exposed and cleansed, as if by sacred flame. Yet character is not so simple. The depression becomes part of you, the un-virtues imposed upon you from youth are maintained into later years. Even being aware of them, they do not shrivel and die. Even speaking words of power to undo this malignant mana, the dark spell persists. Awareness alone does not seem to be enough. The actual physical body is stained by fear and toxic chemical traces. My chemistry, my very being is tainted with vile evil.

Take for example a child growing up in an abusive environment, or a nation under the totalitarian rule of a police state. How such things will warp any human being. Do you think the child or the citizens want to be as they are? Do you think un-free people want to harm others and commit atrocities? Do you think they would not imagine a better world if they could? Whatever they imagine, the reality of their bodies would ground and limit them. The chemical hatred and inferiority inside them would still simmer and sometimes conquer the will.

At this point in time I do not believe it is possible for the most severely oppressed to make free moral choices. The conscious mind would have to be supreme to rein in a lifetime of hatred, frustration and oppression. It would have to be transcendent, and apart from the whole human being – which is impossible. In this sense, I believe the most un-free to be determined. They did not choose to be made anxious by years of being spied upon, nor to fear the next strike of a tyrannical parent. But they had to endure this, and gradually, over miserable years, mental and physical trauma will have imprinted itself upon them.  Without knowing why, they would know a hatred inside for life and positivity, and a jealousy and envy born of feelings of insecurity and self-loathing.

The thing-just-inside feels intuitively right, however destructive it is to our true interests as natural beings. In this way, the oppressed can be crushed without having the will to fight back. The hurt can be convinced that they are too worthless to seek help. The proletariat can be exploited without realizing its own interests.

Help must sometimes come from an external source. What is determined must be un-determined by constant effort. Isolation can happen very quickly. Hope can quickly be shrouded by despair. If you know someone who is out at sea struggling to stay afloat, keep on throwing life-saving ropes to draw them back in until something catches. Then feed them love. It is very hard from the outside to know just how truly a person needs to be loved.

Love is the only means to un-make feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Love overthrows tyrants. Even more than freedom, love is the foundation of dignity. For one who is free but unloved will struggle with wretched inner-feelings, as much as one who is un-free and un-loved. The love we need to give does not have to be some super-natural concept. The day-to-day concern for people, fellowship, sharing things in common, culture-building and physical intimacy is what we enlightened mammals desire.

Once such basic needs, which can effectively be summed up by LOVING COMMUNITY are accomplished, all that is virtuous can follow. Just as a flower must be planted in fertile soil, watered regularly and mulched around to reach full life, so human beings must belong to a community, be well-nurtured, and protected from the worst of life. No matter how much humanity grows in technology and intellect, happiness will not be achieved until this most straightforward need is acknowledged. Any attempt to encourage happy citizens in a fragmented, isolating society is like planting a flower in concrete, shining the light of a false sun upon it, and selling it artificial fertilizer until it dies of cancer.

To have time for another is the most important thing on this earth for us frail, existentially lost beings. All an animal has is its fellow animal. We can be more than our pain, and we can find a new foundation stone of dignity if we are loved.

Love can turn back any darkness, eventually.

The Future

Have you ever felt like the future was hopeless?

I must ask in return – how can that which does not exist have any form of quality?

The future is merely an expected series of moments, no different to these moments at present. Dread of the future requires you to leave the present, but the present is all you really have. And the present, believe it or not, is often bearable.

Things might be difficult now, and tomorrow may or may not bring more difficulty. But when we project into the future, that difficulty becomes magnified many times. Why torture ourselves with such projections? If the present is already quite hard to cope with emotionally, there is no boon in adding a further expectation of misery upon our shoulders!

And besides, as we explored earlier, predictions rest on futility. How things will turn out is unbeknownst to us. The traps are all in our minds; the work of an ego which doesn’t know when to switch off or simply shut the f*** up.

This moment is all we have. You reading this, now, here. Your eyes gazing at the screen, your back against the chair, the air going through your nose and mouth. This is all you have.

A nightmare future is impossible. It is an imagined destiny which can only be fulfilled if you take your thoughts too seriously. Expectation is a never-satisfied beast, which feeds and feeds on hope until it leaves nothing. It is impossible to appease, so why even try to appease it?

Step back from the mind a moment. Turn off the voice inside a moment. Start to trust in your whole being. Let all worries dissipate; they are grounded on nothing but the deranged empiricism of an over-active ego and pained limbic system. We must let our minds and bodies heal.

Fearing the future will not better prepare you for it. Some things, death and suffering, are inevitable. Fortunately, we have the capacity to deal with them – when we do not aggrandise them in our minds. It is only when we long for perpetual comfort, peace, warmth, and freedom that we are least able to appreciate these future promises. By being present we can accept the yin and yang that is life. When we let the unnameable nature within and without guide us, we find our way. For this enigmatic something is far more ancient than the mind, and far wiser.

Stop digging yourself into a hole. Accept what is now. The future is not hopeless or hopeful. The future is nothing.

To the depths

To the depths I went

Always brand in fist

To find what made these paths

I thought I freely trod

 

What illusions waited there

To upturn the ship of tranquillity

What machine within worked

To hide the shadows

What lies came in dreams

To veil the truth

 

And the soul’s guardian, to protect me

Stayed loyal to false master

When it should to my ambition alone cleave

And my song venerate

 

An ocean lays at my heart

It is still or stormy

Of its own wild freedom

But now I can sail it

For I am bound

To the friends of true depth

Who understand what I truly am

 

The illusions in me, games of the mind

Shocked for years, shaken in fear

Of harsh words, of the street, of night

The evidence now piles against it

I have earned my honours

In the heart of the woods

And was always of bliss

And was always of bliss

Gentleness is I, peace is I

Merriness is I, truthseeker am I

A dialogue with anxiety

I WILL PROTECT YOU

No you fool, you will not. What you are doing is debilitating. There is nothing to protect me from. I am strong enough to face the world, I have enough support. The past feelings were wrong.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

The feelings of worthlessness which led us here. They were implanted there without good reason. They are the inheritance of tyrants. We are worthy, and this is proven by our deeds.

I DO ONLY WHAT I KNOW

What you know is wrong. It is false. When you were young, the feelings of pain were stronger, but this does not make them true. Truth is determined by what actually is now, not in words and feelings of folly from the path.

I UNDERSTAND

For now you may. But return not tomorrow to hold me back! I know what I am capable of anxiety, and I know the risks.

Gothic Wave: The Shade

He gasped thinly.

Something began to emerge from the shadows. A vapour trailed out of him into the thing; a thin, ethereal cord which shimmered in the dull light. Slowly it filled out, its edges always hazey and uncertain, shifting like roiling, black sea-waves.

He opened his mouth, but nothing escaped. His spine tingled and his stomach churned. His bowels grew heavy and the back of his throat became dry. No hand reached for a sword, no leg moved into a combat stance.

The thing hissed, a sound wholly ethereal, and then it began to circle him. Tendrils followed its wake like a cloak, brushing against his skin, leaving him chill where it touched him. The shade stopped before him, its eyes flashing, its long fangs bared in a frightening gormlessness. The thing hovered, then slowly lowered its head toward the frozen champion.

How may I serve you, master?’ it asked, and the world began to spin and he collapsed to the cold stone floor, and he fell into a dreamless slumber.

Ego Melters

The ego is undeniably linked to the ‘thought stream’ we are conditioned to accept as an inevitable part of us. To exist in our minds, and identify wholly with the ‘thinking thing’ is a necessity of our materialistic individualism. Without endless thinking, there is no way to atomize individuals.

It makes sense. All identities are composed of thought-language. In reality, there is no British, no Turkish, no nothing. These are things that exist only as language and tales told in the mind. Conflict and argument is likewise of the same aspect.

The ego – i) needs to feel identity. It will do this by ‘othering’ people to strengthen itself. On the most deranged level, this results in the ‘othering’ of entire nations, races, creeds.

The ego – ii) needs to feel right. Chronic arguers and pontificators spread their mission for the sake of their ego and bored minds! What else are they gonna do with their time? The more that are like them, the more they can confirm themselves as ‘right’. It is a duplicating virus.

The ego – iii) needs to be in conflict. The ego thrives on conflict and challenge. It entertains itself with fighting, and asserts itself through dominance hierarchies. For some, fighting is a philosophical necessity, not a breakdown of communication!

Why then was this destructive force unleashed upon the world? Well, the ego is not always a bigoted, hate-spewing war machine. It can conceivably have some limited use. Thinking is important, it is just that in our postmodern age thought has taken over, and feeling is diminished. We are conditioned to believe our thoughts; hence they are the final arbiter of what is real. Likewise we are conditioned to always be active, and to see stillness and rest as an unproductive waste of time. Humanity is an out of control juggernaut, and as we grow in our power to spread destruction through new technology, so does it become a matter of survival to melt the ego down and take control of our true, creative power.

I do not want to paint a sorry picture. We have to have hope, and this can come by looking at the good already in the world, and the enlightenment to come.

What will the new, spiritually evolved humanity look like? Open, honest, sensitive. En masse meditation, populous yoga, effortless labour, non-competitive markets. It won’t be utopia – that is the province of the desperate ego. Utopia is in the future, dystopia also. The new coming will be in the present, of the present and for the present. Utopia is the work of an endless, projecting, over-analysing, neurotic, fearful mind. The new coming will be somewhere between yin and yang, both and neither, balance, imbalance, harmony and discord.

It is coming. Whether we bring it about through our evolution, or annihilate the Gaian life support system in our endless futility, change is coming. The ego is melting.