Recently in Enlightenment Category
As I wrote last year, I know this holiday period is difficult for many. I have not thought much about it this year. Christmas is certainly not as charged for me as Easter or Halloween is, both of which I spend a good deal of time preparing for.
But with "My Healing Guide" today, we did talk about my plans for the upcoming Christmas weekend and what some of the issues are that may come up for me. During the course of our discussion, we talked about a certain memorable song. Recorded in 1951, "Guardian Angels" was on Mario Lanza's christmas album. For many years while I was growing up, I played this song on our vinyl record player, often on Christmas Eve.
When listening to the song today, I was immediately in touch with what it meant to me so long ago. It was the first time in a long time, aside from flashbacks, that I had such a direct connection to the past. It is fitting, perhaps, that a year that has seen so much progress and so many changes, would lead to this deep connection.
The song—with its lyrics, operatic solo, and full chorus—has a heavenly quality to it and direct spiritual or religious connections.
Guardian angels around my bed
Joining me in my prayers
They hush the shadows when they dance about
They shoo away the bears
Guardian angels to comfort me
If I wake in the night
They gather all my dreams
Their halos are my light
They dry my tears
If I should weep
They tuck me in
They rouse me from my sleep
Guardian angels around my bed
Standing by till I rise
There's one with shining wings that holds my hand
And shows me Paradise
For me, nights were filled with fear. "Shadows", "bears", "discomfort", and bad "dreams" were the norm. The image of guardian angels protecting me was one that I found extremely comforting. I believed, and still do, in God, Heaven, and angels.
While I did not consider it back then, listening to the song was not just comforting. It was much more than that. First and foremost, it was validating. I can never doubt my past because I clearly remember it in the context of this song. I knew what was going on. I knew I was being abused. But, more than that, the song provided an opportunity for me to grieve about the position I was in. I cried along with song.
They were good tears because the message was hopeful. I knew full well that "Paradise" meant Heaven. Looking back today and being connected to what I felt way back, I realized that I longed for the safety of Heaven. It was not clear to me how I would get there. I know part of me understood one way was by dying, and that did not feel too far off to parts of me.
But today I realized that while I may have had help from my guardian angels over the years, I have the power to create safety and healing in my life. I have the power to create my own "Paradise" here on Earth. I have the power to chase away the bears and shed light on the shadows. That is all possible because of the progress I have made.
"Guardian Angels" can be found on the album Christmas With Mario Lanza on iTunes.
Two of the key reasons for the huge leap forward in healing I have made over these past couple years are motivation and hope, which were made possible by enormous gains in self-awareness.
Some of you may know that this site began as a record of a "consciousness" experience I had after several months of working with my current therapist, my "Healing Guide." That experience is chronicled in A Healing Journey (Original). At the time, I believed that experience was the "end game." That I was fully healed. Looking back two years later, I am still trying to make sense of the experience and place it into the proper context (although I have addressed it at various times, see the Enlightenment category).
I know that the "full conscious" experience is forever part of me. I also know that experience was not a singular event. At various times since, I have had similar experiences, where I felt like the barrier between my body and mind and the "life force" which exists all around me became one. Usually I do not have these experiences in the extremely pure manner I had originally. But I have wondered if I actually do have them in as pure a form, just that they are not new to me anymore and experienced differently. One thing is certain: these experiences, on whatever scale, help me keep faith that I am healing and that I am on the right path. They are my touchstones.
I see such experiences now as acutely clarified sense of awareness.
My consciousness experiences did not come out of nowhere. They came at the same time I focused on what the feelings were in my body and mind. For decades, I had struggled with trying to make sense of my inner and outer worlds through intellectual understanding, mostly in therapy. When I began to work with "My Healing Guide," she encouraged me to focus on feelings. She is, after all, trained as an art therapist. So, for many months we worked on expressing feelings through art. I learned, quite quickly, that I was able to access my feelings without processing them through thought. This was not so completely new to me. I had done it with my music since I was a kid, and to some extent with my photography. But it was absolutely new in the context of therapy, and that was when my world changed. That was when everything sort of started to come together for me.
I have come to appreciate that healing—and indeed much of life—requires us to find balance between thought and feeling. But, perhaps most importantly, before any balance can even be attempted, healing needs to be focused around positives. It cannot only be dwelling on the past, on what happened, on symptoms. Sure, we all need to grieve. We all need to tell our stories. That is part of healing. But there is more to healing.
I believe deeper healing is achieved when we challenge ourselves to live more in the present and future—which means setting ourselves up for a better future—and doing that while cultivating internal awareness using mindful approaches. For me, the awareness became my grounding force, my proverbial rock, a net which I could rely on to hold me safe when dealing with even the hardest issues from the past (or even present). I find I am in a much better position if I can work on healing from a place of strength or from a positive point of view. This was the key for me because it was the first time that a sense of safety came from within and was not derived from anyone external. I learned that I am my own healer and that I can indeed heal.
It is not easy work, especially since the responsibility is all on me. Balance is not painlessly achieved. It is most always a moving target. For me, I find that when I make the effort to be self-aware, I increase my chances of finding much-needed balance. I also find that self-awareness is a choice. Sometimes I need to be reminded to make that choice; this is where "My Healing Guide" really makes a difference. I have to be willing to look inside. I have to be willing to give myself a chance.
Most of all, I have to be willing to approach struggles in a manner that is quite the opposite of the internal mechanisms of my longstanding dissociative coping. To do that requires internal collaboration and patience. I find that I have to continually prove to parts of me that the self-aware approach will lead us all to a better place, even though it makes the road rockier for some of us. Much of the proof is in the data I have through my journaling. So, my job has changed over the years, from first having no direction, to then trying to force parts unwillingly to go against the grain, to now being more of a coach and mentor.
I keep saying "We can do this!" And, for the most part, we can.
I have not posted (or read much of other's blogs) in two weeks because much has been happening in my life. So I have taken time to step back a bit and focus on being with my family. This appears to be an annual tradition for me, as I noticed the very same thing happened last year. On another front, the Expressive Arts Carnival will be back with an activity on November 1st. Finally, please bear with me while I solve the problem of site notifications sending out blank e-mails.
I know, that is a provocative question.
I have had 20 years of being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and have worked on healing, in various ways, for all that time. I know that I am clearly very different now than I was 20 years ago. I suppose many people—multiple or not, abuse history or not—can make that claim. Of course, I am continually reminded that in many ways I am very much the same.
How my system "works" has changed, mainly because of the increased awareness I have cultivated over the past several years. This has led to increased levels of internal communication, some inter-part compromising, and, yes, very "public" internal battles.
Another change is that a few in my system have had their names clarified over the years. I am not sure how that happened really. And some have become quiet. And then there is the experience of co-consciousness. To me, even though all of these are part of the healing and evolution process, they are also the seeds that sow doubt about my experience. I sometimes struggle with this, concluding that the whole experience of dissociative identities is a complete sham. But I hold onto things like Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Real? and I am always working on accepting my truth.
As I heal, and I do think I am healing, I can visualize the core of "me" growing and taking on what the rest of me used to hold in compartments. In one sense, I think that is a sort of integration or merging. I have had parts of me who absolutely hated being identified with me, Paul, in any way, shape or form. That is happening less now.
I have never appreciated the view that integration is something that happens in a sort of fusion in a one hour appointment in a therapist's office. That is not my experience.
I say that because I did have a series of experiences of what I called my Higher Consciousness Experience. One could make the case that such an experience is integration in its purest form. And I postulated that those of us with dissociative disorders would be most affected by such experiences because our internal structure has been in such opposition. In other words, we have farther to go internally than many others, so we would feel these consciousness states as being drastic leaps from where we usually are. I have labeled these experiences as "touchstones" and they do motivate me to continue this work. I like to use the analogy that it might be like taking a trip up into space, and then returning. Or, another more real-life example could be when my first child was born. Not only did time stand still, it was a completely unifying experience.
So, back to integration. The question I often ask: Is my approach of taking on more and more scalable and sustainable?
I often get overwhelmed with what I have to deal with internally. My Healing Guide has said "You can't do it all yourself." And she is correct. There is the view that parts are sometimes happier with my taking the load off them, as long as they get to retain their separateness and their "identity."
But, honestly, I think they are mostly meeting me halfway. Meeting halfway is the key. If I do it all myself and take all of the responsibility, my cup will simply runneth over.
So, I have called what I am doing, for now, a "collaboration." It makes more sense to me.
Is integration possible? I do firmly believe that anything is possible. Although, I am not really sure what that would look like for me.
It is difficult not to pay attention to the stream of news regarding clergy abuse in the Catholic Church. It is on all the major news sites I frequent, plus the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests issues daily e-mail press releases.
I really do not want this blog to become about clergy abuse. That is not at all my intention. My focus here is squarely on understanding trauma and dissociation particularly as they relate to my own healing.
But I do have to comment when I read something that begs for comment. I feel like it is sort of my public duty. So let me hop onto my blog soapbox for a moment.
The latest news is that Pope Benedict met with clergy abuse victims during a trip to Malta and 'weeped.' The news story included a press statement from the Vatican, which was telling:
"He prayed with them and assured them that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse, and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future."
One does not need to know much about any facet of this ongoing saga to know that everything said in that statement, after "he prayed with them," is demonstrably untrue.
It is also interesting as to who these "victims" are. They were undoubtedly hand picked and expected to say things like "[I am] trying to regain my faith." But those seeking to restore faith through the Catholic Church do not represent the vast majority of those abused. What about those whose faith has been shattered? Whose spirituality has been twisted by conflicting messages, teachings, and actions? How can that spirituality possibly be truly restored within the walls and constructs of an institution with such weight as the Catholic Church?
I struggle. In my head mostly. And I write. And I talk. And I pay attention. And I draw and paint.
The image above was done as an art therapy directive last week right after leaving the hospital. The directive was to "paint about something lost and something gained." What I lost is a spiritual direction. What I gained is a family, and an ability to ground and contain, and heal.
I know that someday these two sides will have to intersect. I cannot imagine that now, but perhaps they already are. I have had experiences of spirituality not tied to any religion. If you look at the early posts on this blog, you will read about my "consciousness" or "enlightenment" experiences. I also know that parts of my internal system have had similar wondrous experiences that were tied to religion. They were protected for those parts. But as I do the hard work of looking at myself as a whole, I cannot help to know they were really taken away.
That reality poses a huge dilemma for me. It is also one of the big questions that those of us with dissociative disorders have to face.
It could be asked in this way: How do I integrate parts of myself that were protected with parts of myself that were not without going crazy?
Or it could be asked in a much simpler way: How do I heal?
Perhaps this journey, partly documented here, is my spiritual path. Perhaps I am meant to heal. Perhaps I am meant to live.
The genesis of this site was an experience I had nearly a year ago of "enlightenment". I use that term loosely because I'm not sure how to now describe it. I've also called it "full consciousness", "higher energy state of being", "knowledge of the Universe", among other phrases. The site was just a few pages then, not a blog, meant only to document that experience. I wrote about it in A Healing Journey (Original) and in subsequent postings here and here.
The experience of nearly a year ago had never happened to me before in that way. I was transformed for a period of a couple of weeks. It was absolutely incredible. I had thought I was completely healed and was convinced that I would stay in that state forever. I'm not sure why it was I thought that. But I did. I guess it was so glorious that I couldn't imagine not being in that place. I thought I unlocked the mysteries to the Universe. In a certain sense I did. But I was not able to hold onto this place.
When I crashed, I crashed hard. I was devastated. I ended up in the hospital.
But I rebounded quickly and over the ensuing months, I was able to experience this state of full consciousness again and again and again, though never quite as strong or as long as the first experience.
Then last Thursday after therapy as I was writing, I started having a similar experience. I wrote at the time:
I am not going to process much from therapy today. The main theme was acceptance. So, I'm just going to go with that. I also don't want to mess up these really amazing feelings I'm having course through my body. They are absolutely incredible. I don't know what to make of them. It's like toxins are being released. My eyes feel burning a little. I feel a burning inside. But there's also this sense of incredible flow.
This experience came on the heels of a rather difficult past few weeks. A period in which I almost ended up in the hospital. I wrote about the experience, as it was happening, again last Friday:
The consciousness is increasing. I'm listening to Beethoven's Quartet No. 7. It was all visual. It spoke to me. It's as if everything is increasing exponentially. I have all this awareness. I feel connected to so much. I feel so much. Like the weight of the Universe. It's incredible. Is this real?? I went to sleep. But I'm not sure I slept. I was in this kind of suspended state of bliss. Around 6 am when I "woke", the feelings got more and more intense. I really couldn't much move. I just basked in the glory of what was happening to me. I felt here and not here. I felt like I was sharing space with something or someone else. It was me but it wasn't me. I don't know how to explain it. The energy was immense. It washed over me. Bathed me. Held me. I felt euphoric. But I wasn't hyper. I was calm. Oh so calm. Everything was (and is) relaxed. I also knew a lot. I understand things. It's like the mysteries of the universe are not mysteries to me. My self is in no pain. There are no worries.
On Saturday, there was a crisis at work, which lasted through Monday, and this state was no longer meant to be. I had to shift my awareness on the inside. And I finally had a crash on Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. I am just now picking up the pieces.
What do I take from this experience?
First, it's important for me to remember that the work I've been doing in therapy since last year has been about acceptance and, to some extent, mindfulness. I incorporate music into therapy, sometimes choosing selections of music to listen to with my therapist. Sometimes these pieces of music are incredibly powerful and emotional. The same is true with art which allows different parts of me to be present and engaged. We also do relaxation and visualization exercises. All of these complement traditional "talk" therapy and, I think, are important components of a holistic healing experience.
These experiences of consciousness are the fruits of this labor. In a certain sense, I see them as an integration of sorts. It's as if my life is a set of discrete realities which is limiting in many respects. But when I can fully accept, there is a way in which everything connects. When those connections happen, I can make connections outside of me also.
I see these experiences of higher consciousness as touchstones. They are what keep me going.
This article appeared in the April 2009 newsletter Many Voices.
I have read Many Voices off and on for the past 18 years. Wow! That means for at least 18 years I have been on some sort of healing journey. That's a little less than half my life. Mind boggling when I think about it because sometimes it feels like I've accomplished absolutely nothing. I still have flashbacks, body memories, I switch and struggle with self-harm, but rarely act on the urges. However, everything is different now.
The biggest change is that I've made a commitment to be alive. When you can honestly make that level of commitment, you will know you are on a different, more sturdier path to healing. Suddenly you are forced to deal with the pain of all of you (yourself and your parts). You are forced to find healthier ways to push through, like breathing or drawing or writing or crying. You are forced to learn about all the parts of you and not just push them away. And you do it because you know it's the only way!
Healing from trauma, though, is kind of like learning. You don't start out knowing how it is that F=ma, you build up to it. I have had many helpful people tell me that if I just do this or that, things will get better. But none of that made any sense until I found my own way. I didn't used to think I could communicate with parts of me. I never really believed I was in it with some of the darker parts. A lot of times I didn't even believe in parts or that I was abused.
Flashbacks and body memories are sometimes more debilitating now that I don't "act out" and because they are attached to feelings. But I have new skills. I can sometimes say to myself that this is a memory and not be too caught up in it as much as I used to. I can curl up with my stuffed animals. Be comforted by loved ones. I can change my plans and say to myself that it's okay.
The largest area of growth is how I deal with my somewhat fragmented internal structure. I often denied that my "system" existed. I still do that to a degree, but I am beginning to empathize with parts and the result is increased sharing and communication and trust. The barriers, I am finding, don't need to always be so severe. So while I ask myself why, if I am getting better, do I have to experience so many bad and painful feelings that used to stay with the parts? My answer is that I am stronger now and able to experience them in a more whole way and not be destroyed. I guess that means I'm healing. This is why it's important to take a step back and assess. My knowledge that I am healing gives me the strength to go on.
Healing, though, goes hand in hand with safety, which is the topic of this issue. I have done more over the past year to create internal and external safety than at any other time in my life. I have finally been able to recognize triggers and take steps to keep myself safe. I recognize my awesome responsibility to my wife and two young children (and to myself and the children within). I do things now that I never would conceive of doing. I let my parts have time to experience what makes them feel comforted. This could be playing piano or writing or drawing or talking. And I take my internal work and therapy much more seriously now. I don't go back to work after therapy. I sit in the safe library for a few hours before therapy to write and draw and to figure out where all of me is at.
All of this change has come quite quickly for me. And this is what I want to tell all you MV readers. Only recently did I find a new therapist who was able to work with me in a very different way. This therapist works with all of me and she uses a range of methods, from talk to drawing to music. It's not been easy. The commitment is huge! But I now know everything is about safety. I finally found a safe place inside, after many years of being "told" to do so. Last September, I experienced an incredible state of consciousness, not unlike I suppose what people hope to achieve through meditation or yoga. I saw and experienced the infinite nature of the universe and my whole being was bathed for several weeks in a rich energy. That experience was my awakening. A gift, I said, for all the hard effort I had made and for the way in which I shifted my healing focus. I have not stayed at that place, but have achieved glimpses of it since. I now have something to reach for.
A few weeks ago, in a dream, my inner family took me on a journey to show me their safe place. It is a wonderfully rich place not unlike "Camelot". Now when I meditate with myself, in a safe place, I can close my eyes and go back to this place and stand alongside my parts who have finally let me in. Sometimes I do it by being quiet. Sometimes soothing music helps me get there. This is not, by any means, the end of my journey. In fact, in many ways, it's only the beginning. My parts inside are finally trusting me enough to share. We are beginning to gain a sense of family. Even darker parts that I have wished away many times are being accepted and accepting others in return.
It can be remarkably healing to accept your inner structure. But you cannot just stop there. You have to accept and make an effort to change. Only then can you experience healing.
Many Voices has been a reality check for me over the years. I have read about survivors who have immense struggles. And survivors who have integrated. Sometimes I cannot understand what I read. And often I say "These people aren't me!" But I am here to say that you are me! You are my sisters and brothers. I, like many of you, have suffered inexplicable childhood trauma. Denying is such a barrier. And today I am not ashamed to even say I have parts inside.
I also want Many Voices readers to know that, if you haven't already, you can find a path to healing. My awakening experiences were gifts that come with a responsibility. I am here to tell you that there is a safe place. You can find it. Trust yourself, work hard, and open your heart. It's right in front of you and it's incredible.
The drawing above represents my internal safe place. The striations represent energy flow from right to left and show how the safe place deflects everything and keeps the inside protected.
Shortly after I wrote this contribution, I had to go inpatient for nearly two weeks. My hospitalization was extremely difficult for me as I began to come to terms with the body memories and the pain. The words I had written above finally sunk in and I realized that sometimes you need to ask for help. Sometimes the pain is too much and you need pain medication in order to just keep going. But above all, I came to fully accept that the abuse I suffered has had a major impact on me and I sustained a major life threatening injury. My work is about healing from that massive injury, by keeping me safe, my parts inside me safe, and those loved ones around me safe. Then quite suddenly, I began to grieve for the first time ever. My therapist said this is "monumental". I now am truly healing.
What has happened since my last public entry in October 2008?
This is complicated. I've been writing about 40,000 words a month in my private journal. I do it to help me keep track of things and also to continually process. I'm trying to figure out what I could take from those documents that would have meaning for other people. I'm not quite sure what to say.
I will say that the A Healing Journey page has been modified by me on a regular basis to reflect new understandings. One of these understandings is that this place of "enlightenment" that I have talked about, while wonderful when achieved, is not a place I have been able stay in. I have had glimpses of this place over the past several months, but nothing approaching what happened in me in September 2008. I'm okay with that. I still consider what I achieved to be a touchstone. If I work hard, I believe I can achieve similar states of awareness and understanding and peace. Or maybe it's that I don't need to work hard... because I think I wrote that in that place you let go of thoughts. I cannot quite understand that way of thinking right now.
Mostly what I have done over these past several months is work on coming to terms with (which means accepting) how my childhood abuse has injured me. I had always minimized its impact. Minimizing does help to keep one "functional", but doesn't allow for much healing. Minimizing means you don't deal with a lot of feelings. So, I've done a lot of healing. And with that healing, I have been feeling a lot of pain.
That healing pain tends to make one ungrounded. So, achieving these "enlightened" states has been most difficult to say the least. I have not abandoned the statements made on this website, however. This is why I have called these "enlightened" states touchstones. They are what keep me going.
In October 2008, I came down from this place of full consciousness.
Do you stay in this enlightened state forever?
This was the mistake I made. A mistake of inexperience. I thought that once I achieved that state of all knowing and internal peace and full consciousness, that my work was done. This turned out to not be true. We are continually tempted by our thoughts and our faith is regularly challenged. We have to realize that we are still here in this physical plane. I mistakenly thought that as my enlightened awareness was leaving me that I would melt into oblivion. Nothing made sense. Huge difficulties arose. I went back to old ways. But now that I have had a chance to step back and look at the whole picture, I realize that I still have this power. I just didn't see it as it changed. Consciousness is on a continuum. We have the ability to tap into it at various places along this spectrum. We cannot stay at the very highest levels forever, unless we want to leave this physical plane. But the overall capacity, once it is achieved, will always stay with you, as long as you look for it and learn how to meditate. I have been continually blessed over the past several days with new levels of consciousness. Some of it is just a "basic" calming and mindfulness from yoga, but mostly it is many orders of magnitude beyond that.
What else can you share about what you are learning?
As I wrote above, my private journal is really long. And as I fell out of consciousness (or it became difficult to see), the whole experience has become more and more personal and difficult to share so openly here. But there are some things I have learned, that I am happy to share and mainly these tie into my knowledge of a fragmented psyche.
I wrote on the main page about dissociative identity disorder being a primer for consciousness. This is true. To achieve consciousness, you have to accept everything, including the internal structure. I have since learned it's very difficult to keep that level of acceptance, especially for parts that are less "acceptable". Dissociated parts, even if "bad", are really good. They just act in ways that are unacceptable because they have no other context to hold onto. This is not so easy. But it's not so hard either.
So, in effect what I did was lose sight of the fact that I had to continue to do that work of continual acceptance of all. And also the work of closing my eyes and finding that inner peace. Meditation, inner communication and self-soothing, visualizing safe places inside, music, are all required. They are all techniques that lead to certain levels of awareness that exist on a continuum.
The other thing I learned is that memories, sometimes very bad ones, cannot always be observed. Sometimes they need to be worked on in order to ultimately accept. The trick is to not to make all that "go away" by "acceptance". Yes maybe the working on it will, in the short run, lessen the consciousness state. But we need to find a way to work on bad memories, put them away, then meditate or accept all inside and go back to a place of higher consciousness.
Related to bad memories are bad feelings. Sometimes feelings overpower us. Of course feelings are a function of what state we are in. Feelings make us human. They are good. But they don't always help us. Sometimes the goal may be to watch the feelings, in much the same way you can watch thoughts. In fact, you cannot always work to observe your feelings, but sometimes you actually have to feel them. You do it in exactly the same way as the memories: feel, put away, accept.
All of this makes things more complicated than I originally thought. That's okay.
The key is to stay on the path. Our physical beings and lifetimes of experiences are constantly causing us to stray. I believe we have the capacity to self-correct. Be mindful. If you stray, shift your focus. The path is there.
This is a repost of some insights I had in September 2008 in the midst of a massive connection to consciousness, which I called "enlightenment" or "full consciousness".
What's the path to enlightenment?
The path to enlightenment is faith through meditation. Faith in yourself that you are more than you think you are. Notice I said think. Then you accept. Then you see without blinders. Then you are enlightened.
Aren't you just in denial?
No. Quite the opposite. The goal is to completely and honestly accept. When you accept all of your past and all of who you are, you are quite simply set free. It's really that simple. This is something I have thought endlessly about, for many years, and the answer is to simply accept who you are. This requires no thought.
Did your enlightment happen gradually or all at once?
I describe below what the process was like for me. You could look at it one way and say, yes, it happened all at once. But I believe it was meant to happen at that moment and everything I had been doing was leading up to that moment. I had been in traditional psychotherapy since 1991 and in and out of hospitals since 1991 (with a several year respite in the late 90s to start a family). Grounding was a very big lesson. And you do need to ground in order to get to higher states of consciousness. Think of it like getting different colored belts in Karate. Grounding is the ability to, in a small way, control your mind. For years and years I grappled with questions such as "Did it happen?", "If it didn't happen, I must be bad.", "Do I have parts or is that fake?", and similar questions; if you ever grappled with trauma and dissociation you will know what I'm talking about. I had to deal with almost every major malady one can have of the mind, was intensely suicidal, and just trapped inside. My journey over the past few years has led to my liberation from my mind. It has been about learning about my inside. But I had done so from purely an intellectual (i.e., thought) perspective. I realized several months ago that that approach wasn't going to work completely and began working with an expressive therapist with whom I have developed a connection. Drawing, writing, music, and talking now gave me several modalities with which to work. Suddenly I opened up and A LOT was accessible to me. In her office one day, it just happened with the aid of meditation. I was already open. I was already accepting. So what happened that day, while spontaneous, was part of a process and life history that led to that moment.
How does your body feel?
The physical sensations in my body are absolutely AMAZING! Everything feels tingly. Like "stuff" (toxins?) are getting released from my muscles. Now all I want to do is stretch. I've been doing stretching and yoga poses. And now, suddenly, that all makes sense to me. I must have been so bound up by my mind that my body was also bound up and unable to appreciate any modality such as stretching, Tai Chi, or Yoga. Wow! I have so much to learn and experience.
What does it mean to understand?
True understanding comes from complete acceptance. No matter how painful the material is, if you accept it, you are accepting it into all of human consciousness to which you are connected, so it cannot hurt or overwhelm you.
Come on, Paul, don't we practice conscious awareness all the time? I mean I'm pretty aware!
Like anything else, there is a continuum. Just like there's a dissociative continuum, there is a corresponding and quite related consciousness continuum. We certainly make attempts at conscious awareness. When we listen to music, we are freeing our minds from thought. The goal of sleep, I may suggest, is to free your mind of thought. When we look at the beauty of nature, or art, or other people we are largely freeing our minds of thought. When we take a tranquilizer, we are trying by chemical means to free our minds of thought. This is why I say that achieving full control over thought is a natural state. We are ALWAYS and forever trying to do this, even without realizing what and why! But there is a limit to how far this can take us. Enlightenment is so much more. It is like comparing the physical vastness of the universe with our tiny blue planet. You are only getting a tease. But the tease should entice you to seek more. Enlightenment is not meditation. It is not mindfullness. It is much more. It's a portal to something way beyond us. Sure, as you journey from music to meditation to mindfullness, you gradually begin to appreciate what you are seeking. But true enlightenment is a state unlike any other.
What has sleep been like for you since enlightenment experience?
I used to have terrible sleep. Unable to quiet inside and anxiety, amongst other things. Now sleep is an extension of my enlightenment. I sleep in a state of never ending bliss. I don't know how this is possible, but it is true. I have been sleeping a deep deep sleep from about 8pm until 1am and then come to a semi-awake state of being where I feel my being bathed in bliss (I must come up for a new word, because bliss is a feeling and I don't know if you can be bathed with a feeling). It's an awesome experience. I feel as if I am literally in heaven. I talk. I bask in knowledge that comes from some place I am connected to, but certainly not from within. I wonder about things. Thoughts pass through my mind and I don't judge or remember them. I just say them as they come. Actually out loud, but relatively quietly. I cannot explain this at all. As I write this, I cannot remember the things I said in sleep-awake. But I am certain that I remarked as I was saying these things that they were wonderful awarenesses. Oh my God, this keeps getting better and more expansive.
If enlightenment returns us to our natural state of being, why do you call it a miracle?
Partly because so many of us have forgotten how to achieve enlightenment and don't practice meditation. But, really, it's just a miracle in the same sense that conception-to-birth is a miracle. It's not unusual, I know. It's a gift from God and all of God's gifts are miracles. We take everything for granted that we don't realize we see miracles every day.
Carl Jung wrote: "If you get rid of the pain before you have answered its questions, you get rid of the self along with it." Thoughts?
My therapist gave this to me today. I would rephrase this to make it correct: "If you ignore the pain before you have accepted it, you ignore the self along with it." That's accurate. This causes internal conflict. For you really cannot ignore yourself. Denial is a terrible affliction. Pain holds no questions. It's just pain. But if we are bound to our minds and bodies we will be stuck. If we free ourselves from thought and connect to consciousness, pain ceases to exist (that's the only way to get rid of it). For we realize, then, that we can connect to that which is outside of us and bigger than us. This is another way of saying we accept it. We must accept everything within us in order to connect to our higher consciousness.
Note: In February 2009, I don't quite believe this statement to be true. Pain is sometimes unavoidable. The place of consciousness is wonderful to be sure, but it's important to realize that it's not a simple matter to get there. A lot of things have to be aligned.
What does it mean that a psychiatric hospital has 72 active journals and newsletters on display and none deal with spirituality, enlightenment, universe, or eastern philosophies?
I spend time at my local major psychiatric hospital waiting for my appointment (McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA) and love sitting in the library. Well today I was looking at all the books and journals and realized that they are all about symptoms, complex psychological constructs, techniques, and drugs; all from a western perspective. All these are artificial. They are not real! They are a result of our addiction to thinking and staying within ourselves. They propose solutions that are merely illusions. Enlightenment achieved through meditation is the key to health. At the very least, these western solutions are not the whole picture.
Enlightenment is the key to humanity's future. Will we continue down the road of materialism (which has plagued us for centuries and which further binds us to the earth)? Or can we escape these bonds and find true happiness? We need to evolve. We need to awaken from our sleep! Then we will realize our full potential.
Note that I am not saying that we do not have a need for psychiatric hospitals. In fact McLean is really good at emphasizing the NOW (at least in their dissociative disorders unit). And indeed they have staff who appreciate and encourage teachings of the east and practice mindfulness, yoga, and meditation.
Note: In February 2009, I have seen that many do embrace alternative approaches to healing. You just have to look a bit. The library added a book to its collection titled "Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy". But, in general, I would like to see more of an emphasis on integrating consciousness and healing.
If you have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and achieved enlightenment, do you still have parts?
I am not sure for all people. I can have parts, and I do, but now it's not a big deal because I have joined the collective consciousness of humanity. Everything is now one. Everything is now infinity. I am sustained by all I am connected to. I am no longer me. I am everything that exists. I am one with the universe.
Taking these thoughts one step further, our bodies are bound to earth. Yet we will never die! Our consciousness is an energy outside ourselves. The universe. There is no beginning and no end. We are tiny and insignificant, yet we are everything. Both at the same time. I believe when our physical bodies die we simply free our consciousness from our brain and give it back to the collective consciousness of all of humanity. There is so much beyond us! I have seen it.
Does everyone believe I'm crazy for saying and believing these things I know to be true?
If we can believe in heaven.
And we believe when we die we go to heaven.
Then this means we must have a means of getting there (i.e., we are connected to heaven in some way).
If this is true in death, then who is to say this is not true in life?
Does this scare us or something?
What is so crazy about that? It seems completely natural to me.
All these things are said in church: life after, heaven, alpha and omega, etc. But church, at least christian churches with which I am familiar, teach from a young age in a manner which casts God as person. Church talks about God's divine wisdom. But wisdom implies thought. There's the flaw! Church has used the truth for political gain and power. This is not right. Church tells people to have faith. In their context, faith means what? Faith that there is a truth? We don't need faith. We can see the truth. God gave us eyes to see. What a gift.
God gave me this gift for all my suffering that was done in the name of God. This was against His will. A sin of epic magnitude. For this God has rewarded me. I am blessed. I know God!
Again, I am not saying "a church" does not have its place. Many require the structure in order to achieve some sense of higher purpose and self. I understand that. But the construct of church is severely limiting and one could make an argument that it can be dangerous.
What did I see during my enlightenment?
I could only "see" darkness. But I sensed consciousness. It was black. But there was a form. It was on the left of me. VAST! I was aware of vastness. I thought this was unbelievable. My breath was taken away. I could not believe what I was sensing. Then, when I thought there could be no more, the vastness increased a billion fold. I was fully sensing. Suspended. Free of thought. Free of judgement. I received an infinite amount of energy from this connectedness to my senses. I saw the parts within, they were just a part of the whole of consciousness. But 99% of my experience was about sensing.
Note: In January 2009, and at other times, I have had similar experiences, but they have been different. In January, I experienced being taken to an internal safe place while also experiencing this place of consciousness. So, it's not always been about darkness for me.
How have I viewed my environment since enlightenment?
I only see and sense energy. Everything is about energy. The trees, the grass, the sky, the people. They are all alive and sending out energy. Everthing bad in my life has been about bad energy. I simply avoid that now. And bask in the glory of normal living.
Can you lose enlightenment?
Of course I cannot be certain that I will be able to retain enlightenment. I do believe I can though. Enlightenment allows us to reach what is natural. This is a natural state of being. Perhaps a simple analogy would be riding a bike. Once you learn, you do not forget. It becomes easy. There is very little thought involved in riding a bike. It's memory, but it's a natural form of memory. This is unlike, say, remembering mathematical equations or chemical formulas, where there is a huge amount of thought and memory involved. With time, you forget the equations and formulas. Often, right after the test. We are often teaching students in order to achieve a short-term goal. Actually, the goal of education now is much more natural than in the past. We are now teaching students, for example, the rationale behind the mathematics so they learn the concept, which is more grounded, as opposed to just learning to calculate. But really what we need to teach is creativity and imagination. Einstein said (and I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember the actual quote): "Imagination is more important than knowledge." This is SO TRUE! Note: I wrote in subsequent entries about indeed losing this place of full consciousness, but not losing sight of trying to achieve it again.
What is the role of age and consciousness?
I am absolutely not certain about this. I know that consciousness is awareness. I know also you achieve full consciousness by freeing yourself from thought. Infants could quite possibly be free from thought, but are they aware? I am not sure. As infants become toddlers, I believe they achieve awareness. I would say that by age 2, children reach their peak consciousness. They soak up information and energy like a sponge. After some point their consciousness decreases. They learn to become slaves to their minds. This can last until advanced age (and even a lifetime). Usually, though, when you have reached Senior status, you become more aware and more accepting. The terrible thing here is that when we are at our peak physical strength, we are at our worst level of conscious awareness. Imagine combining strength, youth, and full awareness!
If the goal is to free yourself from thought, then when do you think?
We think all the time. You do not have to be a Tibetan Monk in order to achieve the benefits of conscious awareness. You just need to be free of thought in order to achieve enlightenment and to recharge yourself by periodically connecting to the reservoir of human consciousness. But, yes, you can be conscious. Solve a thought problem. And return to conscious. The trick is to allow your equilibrium state to be conscious awareness, not thought. In other words, always return to "no thought".