Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Lord Don't Move My Mountain, But Give Me the Strength to Climb"

The same day I read the story about Mother Teresa's little... dry patch, I received an email from a longtime reader who is experiencing a similar Dark Night, although it hasn't yet lasted 50 years. He is asking for feedback, so I thought I'd throw it out to the wider Transdimensional Order of the Friendly Sons & Daughters of the Cosmic Raccoons, and see if we can't put on our collective coonskin thinking caps and come up with something useful, or at least not completely useless. I'd like to offer some meditations on the topic, but I have a feeling that you-know-who is going to wake up any minute, so it may have to wait until later in the week for a more fulsome evasion.

I'm going to change the name -- let's call her Otis -- and some of the details to protect anonymity of this sin-drenched rascal. And don't even try to guess who it is, because you'll be wrong.

Otis begins by conceding that "I haven't read OneCosmos for a while, which happens to be a symptom of why I'm writing you now."

Ahem. I think we've identified the problem: insufficient bobtizement in the daily weird.

"For the past year or so I've been spiraling down the Rabbit Hole.... I feel like my mind is embroiled in a battle of psycho-spiritual attrition. I feel immobilized on every front -- spiritually, creatively, socially, financially... everything. Nearly every practical effort of my rational mind triggers a rabid, debilitating tantrum by counter-protesting, well organized mind-parasites (who might as well be funded by George Soros). And I mean every action. Something as benign as returning a phone call from a friend, mustering the energy to get to the gym, taking the basic steps to finding work."

Now first of all, raise your hand if you've been in this situation. One, two, three.... I see that many of you can relate. Naturally, the first question is to determine what plane this is arising from, broadly speaking: physical, bio-psychological, mental or spiritual. Naturally you want to first rule out any medical issues, anything from diet to allergies to an underactive thyroid. Usually it's not that, but still, you want to begin with a clean bill of health.

And before considering the question of mind parasites, you want to determine if this is more of a biochemical dysregulation issue as opposed to a purely psychological or spiritual one. Superficially this sounds like depression, but depressive symptoms are only the "final common pathway" of a host of possible causal factors, from the purely biological to the purely psychological to the existential to the spiritual, i.e., activated kundalini (although the psychological naturally causes chemical changes, and vice versa, so it's never completely clearcut). For the same outward symptoms, there are times that medication such as an SSRI can be a "magic bullet," other times that it will have no effect at all. (I should probably add the disclaimer that I am not attempting to diagnose or treat here, just offering up some general advice that would essentially apply to anyone.)

"Mind parasites" is essentially my colorful term for unconscious complexes. We all have them and can't avoid having them. It's just one of the prices of being human. The idea is to "contain" them, rather than them containing you. More on this later.

Ms. Otis continues:

"I'm in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Perhaps the worst part is that I can't even take the solace I once did in spiritual matters. It's as if I've exhausted my thirst for knowledge, since it seems the abstractions no longer digest. I don't want to say I know it all (if I did believe that I obviously wouldn't be writing this). However, I do feel that my rational mind has a good enough grasp of the abstract ways of the world. Still, all such 'knowledge' or 'understanding' is pretty worthless if I can't apply it to my own life. So this frustration has lead to a visceral aversion to deep spiritual writings (Sadly, this includes OneCosmos, The Bible, the other sacred texts). I think I'm become terrified of genuine knowledge (K). Perhaps the power and responsibility intimidates me."

It's difficult to give an opinion on this without some wider autobiographical context. In short, it's hard to say whether this is a deviation from the spiritual process, or a part of it. This is something I will get into in more detail later in the week, since Future Leader is now officially awake. But with regard to both psychological and spiritual growth, pain is involved. The question is whether it is productive pain (e.g., "burning off old karma") or useless pain.

I remember Dennis Prager once throwing out a similar question to his radio audience, essentially asking, "what do you do when God withdraws?" For him, this was one of the appeals of Judaism, since it consists of so many concrete actions that are intrinsic to the religion. Jewish religious paractice may be somewhat unique in emphasizing the primacy of doing over being: the being follows from the doing, rather than vice versa. I was just reading about this the other day in a passage by Steinsaltz.... Now that I'm looking for the passage, I see another relevant one, where he quotes an eminent rabbi, who wrote that "There is nothing more whole and complete than a broken heart," which obviously resonates with Christ's paradoxable about the poor in spirit inheriting the earth -- it is the cracks that allow the light in.

Let's continue with the letter, in which Otis discusses practical steps he has already taken: "I've tried many times to develop a routine practice, based on insights shared by you and others. Meditation has been a struggle. Following all sorts of advice on breathing exercises, yoga, mind games, visualization, creative immersion, and onward. I suppose I've always looked for/expected revelation from everything -- books, films, conversation, travels -- and now I'm waking up to the blunt truth that knowledge alone will not save me. It's going to take more commitment, responsibility, intuitive, maturity, and a strong will to break through. But I'm, ultimately, still a child. And that stubborn child isn't willing to give up it's hope for an easy way, a short cut."

Yes, superficially this sounds like a bit of a cafeteria approach, when for most people, the best way is to immerse yourself in a single tradition. One of the reasons for this is the grace such a tradition affords -- not to mention the "spiritual protection" -- again, more on which later.

Interestingly, there are hints that Otis is in the twilit realm between one world and another, between death and rebirth:

"Still, my escapes and crutches are all cut off. Spending time with friends, losing myself in casual conversation, music, film, following sports or politics, just sitting back and enjoying a fine day. Over the years my body has gradually come to reject all of my old vices. Drugs are a bust, mere alcohol no longer moves me at all, eating is now mostly utilitarian. I have difficulty relating to people. "

This can be a difficult and disorienting phase, for the simple reason that we rely upon what gives pleasure to provide us with a sort of instantaneous meaning and orientation. To the extent that previously pleasurable activities fail us, we can feel adrift, with nothing yet to replace those old reliable "pointers."

"I'm not living up to my commitments.... One of my concerns in looking for work is that while I can always sell myself -- I make a powerful first impression -- I'm not confident that I'll live up to my potential.... Of course I can -- but my track-record shows that I don't, no matter how good my intentions. What makes this so frustrating and confusing is that this aversion is not limited to droll obligations like getting a job or paying rent. It extends to taking advantage of opportunities that are wholly positive..."

This sounds more personal/psychological to me; however the "in between" phase can lead to a sense that reality is completely absurd, so that nothing is really worth the effort. Reminds me of this essay by Van der Leun the other day. Sometimes the realization that I just can't do it anymore is the most honest thing you can say about your present life.

"I've lost my fire, my passion, my will. I'm a stove clicking, waiting on a match. Again, I know I need to suck it up and do what must be done. But when the time comes I get dizzy, disoriented, and overcome with anxiety.... As my various delusions of stumbling into some road to Damascus moment melt away, I'm left wondering how one develops The Will to overcome these forces. Is this a normal phase of spiritual development? Are there simple methods to ease into a practice? My mind is too cluttered to activate my imagination, or, perhaps I've become too frightened to let go and connect with the vertical or non-local. Still, through it all I've been blessed beyond reason; repeatedly, often inexplicably, rescued from dire circumstances of my own doing. In a way this increases my frustration, since my squandering of such gifts can only be seen as a slap in the face to God."

*****

I really haven't had time to address the writer's concerns in much depth, but before I do so, I would be very curious to know what others think. Again, these are generally universal issues, and to a certain extent, the way you deal with them depends upon the tradition you're in. For example, in Volume III of Sri Aurobindo's Letters to disciples, he has a whole section dedicated to Difficulties of the Path, and a related one entitled Opposition of the Hostile Forces.

The former chapter begins with a letter that reads, "All who enter the spiritual path have to face the difficulties and ordeals of the path, those which rise from their own nature and those which come in from the outside. The difficulties in the nature always rise again and again till you overcome them; they must be faced with strength and patience. But the vital [emotional] part is prone to depression when ordeals and difficulties rise. This is not particular to you, but comes to all sadhaks [practitioners of yoga]."

In another letter he speaks of "the resistance of the Universal Nature which does not want the being to escape from the Ignorance into the Light. This may take the form of a vehement insistence in the continuation of the old movements, waves of them thrown on the mind and vital and body so that old ideas, impulses, desires, feelings, responses continue even after they are thrown out and rejected, and can return like an invading army from the outside..." (By the way, one encounters the same sort of "internal saboteurs" in psychotherapy, only from a different level.)

Anyway, let's hear some honest and creative responses to this dilemma, and perhaps some testimonials as to how you made it through your own Time of Darkness. Feel free to post anonymously if it's too personal.

67 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My God! I await what other think, because I am in the similar process for the last 1 year or so, really intensifying last 3 months. All I keep on thinking about is quitting my job and lying in bed for hours. Everything pleasurable and tasteful is boring and tasteless. It's like I am rotting into the horizontal being so that vertical being may emerge.

8/28/2007 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

"and perhaps some testimonials as to how you made it through the dark times."

You could also say making it through the dark times. Is it possible this feeling or sense of wandering is going on with many people of similar make-ups? It sure has been a rough summer for a lot of people I know, including myself. I wouldn't say it was horrible and still managed to squeak out some fun but emotionally it was tough.

It's even worse when you have the spirit of a back-up singer trapped in the body of out-of-tune, crackly- voiced human. Otis should use her/his God given talents and go for it. Of course, there is always the option of changing one's mind but it is a little more difficult to change one's heart. Trying to remember that everything is cyclical or spiral is very crucial. How can you hit those amazing highs without a few gut-wrenching lows?

Speaking of God-given talents, Joss Stone was extraordinary last night. Talk about not fair, this 21 year old with the voice of a sultry angel is also beyond gorgeous to boot. Seriously, if I could love a woman, she would be the one!!! Listening to her songs, it's clear that everyone has hard times and boy troubles (so to speak)! But I always have to remember that Life is not fair and everyone has problems. It's how you deal with them that defines who you are. Maybe a change of scenery will be inspiring? Good luck, Otis...

8/28/2007 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Some of the Jewish masters were very suspicious of the subjective feeling of being "in touch" with the Creator, and in at least one case that I remember, for example, a visionary prayed that his special "siddhis" be withdrawn, so that he would not be distracted by them, and could go about the much more serious business of just being a good Jew in the world, without the distraction of visions of supernal worlds, clairvoyance, or the vivid experience of being in touch with God. Perhaps this is like first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is. If there is a difference between the mountain as it was before, and the mountain as it is, after you go through the no-mountain period.

If you read Blaise Pascal's memorandum, you can sense that he went through an intense spiritual experience in which he felt the reality of a Divine presence as vividly and corporeally as you want, but it is also apparent, I think, that he did not have such experiences regularly, and perhaps never did again.

8/28/2007 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Very good. Chop wood, carry water.

8/28/2007 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

By the way, I've had a difficult summer too. Seems to be something adverse in the spiritual air....

8/28/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

He who smelt it dealt it.

8/28/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

God bless you Otis for reaching out to Bob and the 1Cosmos community. It's so hard to do that. Your letter was so compelling and explained the bleakness of this state so clearly.

All serious seekers go through this. (And others who aren't seeking consciously do, too.) Every religion and serious spiritual teaching that I'm familiar with talks extensively about this.

I've found something that has helped me ... in addition to Zoloft, Bob, and having some babysitting help. Sri Aurobindo and The Mother talk about the Sunlit Path. That's the relatively easier path of yoga where you give yourself over to The Mother's Grace and let her do the heavy lifting. I'm not the best at explaining these things, but this is my understanding of it.

The Mother gives the example of the difference between the baby monkey and the baby kitten. The baby monkey grabs onto his mother and holds on with his tight grip as she carries him. The baby kitten goes limp and lets the mother grab it by the scruff of the neck and carry it around. When I made the conscious choice to see if I could try the way of the baby kitten, it was a very hard road at first. I was very controlling and it was incredibly hard for me to even try to turn my life over to God in this way...so completely. It took at least a month of feeling very awkward about it until I felt like I could do it with conviction. I just didn't get the whole idea of not feeling in charge of my life in big ways and small. It was almost like I was being irresponsible.

One other thing I've found very helpful is when I'm feeling at a real low point and very desperate, I throw myself at The Mother's feet, basically and beg for help. It helps to feel very desperate, in my experience, because I know that I don't have the answers or the power to help myself, so it feels completely honest to ask for help in this way.

i hope this makes sense...thanks Otis for the wonderful letter and to Bob for the great post. One last thing...knowing that other people are praying for you can be very powerful. We're all doing that...I hope it helps,
Mrs. G

8/28/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I have a couple of thoughts here; being a professional housewife with a painting degree, please take them for what they're worth, and feel free to correct me if I'm way off base.

"...And I mean every action. Something as benign as returning a phone call from a friend, mustering the energy to get to the gym, taking the basic steps to finding work."

I'm very familiar with those particular beasties, the ones who throw a tantrum to rival any three-year-old at the thought of actually doing anything that is useful or in your best interest, and are also great at manufacturing trouble where none actually exists. When they were at their loudest in my head, several years ago now, a friend recommended taking a daily b-complex vitamin supplement. I've been taking it ever since, and while they never go away completely, it did help to quiet them down so I could get things done; the b-vitamins made me feel normal again. And while I realize it could be the placebo effect, it was very effective for me. If they're not helpful for you, at least there is no harm in taking them.

"I'm in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Perhaps the worst part is that I can't even take the solace I once did in spiritual matters"

Last week in the comments I had an analogy about being able to see spiritual depth, in that it is like looking at a magic eye picture. One of the interesting things about those pictures is that often, even though you've seen the image before, you can lose your focus so that the 3d image disappears. The cause could be many things - eyestrain from looking too long or too hard, an exterior distraction that snaps you out of the image, or not focusing hard enough. It can be very difficult to get your eyes to see it again when this happens.

One of the biggest and most natural mistakes to make at that point is to try too hard to regain the image, in part at least because you know for a certainty that it is there. Having lost it, you become frustrated, you squint your eyes every which way, you hold it close and pull it away; depending on your temperament, you may eventually fling it away from yourself or even tear it up in frustration. You get angry at the picture for withholding its secret from you, or angry at yourself for being unable to do what once came (in hindsight, it seems) so easily and naturally.

Oftentimes, the best thing you can do in this situation is to take a deep breath, set the picture down, and just walk away from it for a little while. At times like these, the harder you struggle, the more likely you are to fail; your resources are exhausted, your mood is anything but focused, even though it may feel like your mind is a laser beam. You want so desperately to get back to where you were that your efforts become exaggerated, cartoonish, and even couterproductive. But you can't see it, because you're essentially in an anger or panic mode. This is when it's best to just stop trying. Not forever, just long enough to regain your bearings.

If you can, you need to step outside yourself. Look at yourself dispassionately, and find what the root of your troubles is (easier said than done, I know - especially if it is a medical problem, and not a particular event or situation in your life). Identify the main problem or problems, and make a plan to come to terms with it - fix it if you can, and live with it (and possibly learn from it) if you can't. Depending on what it is, you may feel immediate relief at having a path to follow, when before you've been running around in undirected circles. Or, it may make you feel worse, especially if there is some particular "demon" you must face before you can move forward. But even then, knowing what you must do can be extremely helpful.

As to spirituality, try going back to something very simple. When you wake up, ask for guidance through the course of the day. Then, just try to handle one thing at a time. Don't ask for specifics, because chances are you won't get what you think you want. Listen, but don't strain to hear (because then all you get is the tinnitus of your humming brain cells, and again the frustration and anger of no apparent response). The tricky things is, oftentimes when it seems like you're going precisely nowhere (or worse), you are in fact exactly where you need to be.

I hope some part of this is helpful, Otis. I won't offer any platitudes, because I know right now they will seem empty. I hope for you, unknown friend.

8/28/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Folks,

This has been one of the hardest years of my life. On the surface it has been easy. I'm lucky that I have a job which is not too demanding, and I've finished grad school. I've been able to get away with being a slacker. I used to be very proud of my work ethic. I am the person people go to when they need to get things done, but lately the best I've been able to do only what absolutely needs to get done. I just can't summon the energy or motivation to do more. Its like I'm under a mandatory slack rule. Self-improvement has fallen completely by the way side. I barely make it to the gym much less Church or meditation.

On the one hand I'm depressed and frustrated that I can't seem to meet the goals I've set for myself. On the other hand I'm beginning to see that most of my goals and self-improvement projects are self-centered and mostly ego driven. I'm building myself rather then growing. Those who have read our Unknown Friend will understand what I mean. God has a plan for me , and I don't think it is anything that I've planned for myself. I have to trust and have faith that God knows what he is doing with me better then I know myself. Its scary, but that is what faith is for. All my life I've kept busy to avoid having to deal with life. Now all of that has collapsed and I only have slack and faith. I think Otis's problem is similar to mine. She has grown out of the life she as tried to construct for herself, and she hasn't figured out how to live the life that God has set out for her.

8/28/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Leslie, I think you just summed it up better than I did - be like the baby kitten.

8/28/2007 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

This place is magic.

8/28/2007 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything I've been feeling in my life resonates very closely with what your troubled dark night of the soul reader describes. I recall that when I was initially drawn on an inward exploration towards God, I was filled with energy, meaning and motivation. All those things that motivated me now seem so shallow and life in so many ways just seems to be a bunch of insanely bizarre events that we must go through. I don't suffer much though since I've also lost my ability to worry about things since its obviously a pointless thing to do, but my God I do see tremendous suffering (usually self inflicted) out in our materially oriented world. I also see so many people so ignorantly putting this suffering on themselves by setting up stupid self centered goals. Sometimes I feel like so much of our society has become geared towards servicing our dumb neurotic wants that I feel like just quiting.
At the same time I have felt the light coming through the cracks and I do know that existence is beyond weird and is all there is and ever will be and is all that I am possibly looking for. Just don't know how to cope with my apparent detachment from the "normal" world of society.

8/28/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

I'm with Leslie.
Empty yourself and allow God's will to take the lead.
Trusting that the protection will be there as it always has.

8/28/2007 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Stu said...

Otis,

My hand is firmly raised, as I'm sure the hands of many here are.

My dark night lasted for about 3 years. I experienced many of the symptoms you've described in your letter. Fear, anxiety, paralyzation. My ordeal was also accompanied by a debilitating fear of my own mortality.

Simple pleasures no longer felt simple or pleasurable. Ordinary tasks felt like insurmountable burdens. There were times when I was so overcome by a sense of isolation and dread that all I could do was scream out and ask God, "WHERE ARE YOU?!!!" But God would not answer. I would hear only from death as he counted down every passing minute of my futile life. And I would shudder and cringe and cry and pace and yell until I was so exhausted that I could no longer curse the day that I was born.

There were times that I thought this state of sickness would never end - that I had been condemned to live in this wretched state of misery for the rest of my life.

I tried a number of psychotherapeutic and spiritual approaches to alleviate this condition. I made some very slow progress with these tools, but I could never really cured it.

And then something happened that seemed very small at the time but made all the difference. I had always known that "letting go" somehow held the key to unlocking the mystery of Me. But this was always a very vague concept, and I didn't even know what I was supposed to let go of, let alone how to do it.

But gradually, as I reviewed my life, rebuilt damaged relationships, contemplated myself, studied metaphysics and psychology, and cultivated a realtionship with God, something just clicked, and my worldview was profoundly changed forever.

Psychologically, I let go of the world and the power it held over my emotionally self. Cognitively, I let go of the idea that I was captain of my ship and accepted that I am merely a sail (or maybe a rudder?). And spiritually, I let go of myself (with a little "m"), giving Myself (with a capital "M") back to its rightful owner.

As my perspective shifted, I gradually learned to be in the world but not of the world. To strive for The Perfect, while accepting imperfection. To live with my humanity, to live with paradox, to tolerate ambiguity and change. To embrace the infintite and often painful search for the completeness which is always already there.

And as my dark night continues to give way to ever brighter daylight, I clearly see that I am better off for having suffered.

In this age of fallen men, suffering is our medium of growth and return. Where there is suffering there is potential for transcendence.

My best wishes to you, Otis, that you may transcend yourself and your own dark night.

And if my experience can be used as a crude measure, I would venture to say that you're heading that way.

8/28/2007 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Following Hoarhey et al - One simple way to empty and refocus is to seek out the needs of others that you can help meet. Often your own are either met in the process or fade away to insignificance.

8/28/2007 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have personally come out of a period of darkness myself. Julie is spot on about the Vitamin B complex. It helps... won't fix anything but it helps. As to everything else the best advice I can give it just to quit trying. I believe these spells are for people who needs a spiritual time out. Who have learned alot and went at it full boar and sprained their spiritual muscles. Sometimes it's perfectly appropriate to *opt out* of being a *human doing* and work on being a *human being*. Only do the minimal and don't worry about squandering Gods gifts. He'll let you know when it's time to put those to use. At least he did for me. Quit trying to figure out what he wants for you... just rest up and wait for him to tell you where he wants you to go. It's amazing to how sometimes doing absolutely nothing.. not slacking ... just flat out nothing can be a beautiful blissful thing. Don't meditate, don't pray, just find a porch, park bench, lakeshore, balcony, quiet room, etc. and just sit and be nothing. My boyfriend and I spent about 2 weeks this summer out on my back porch, not talking or thinking, for hours and hours at a time, being nothing. Before that I was madly spinning my wheels trying to go who knows where. After those weeks everything started lining up again... the darkness I'd been under since January was gone. Hope that helps some. It's all I've got.

8/28/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I had this similar problem, uh, off and on for a long time (I tend to be moody) but what I always found it came from was trying to work things out. My method is to strategize; to try to analyze and synthesize all available data. Needless to say, I set myself into many times of grief trying to understand and justify the economy of the world. Eventually I just had to let go of all egotistical knowledge; and tasks I was doing that were egotistical. I recall Christ saying to cut off your Right Hand or Right Eye if it were to send you into hell. And for me, that was where they were putting me. It doesn't mean that I entered a state of ignorance, but rather, one of reality, not pretending to know what I didn't really know.

Now, because I am a thinking man, this may be the reason why it manifested in this way. But I found that 'passions' means more than just you know, 'passionate'. It also means the strivings to feel good.

The Friar who taught last Monday said this:

Without God, the spirit is dead. But unlike the body, the soul does not depart. But the spirit rots, and seeks solace from its pain in the body.

That was when I realized that what I suspected was indeed true; the implicit part of the Western path - pain, the Dark Night, becoming still - had to become explicit for me.

Nobody save God can truly explain this, but there will be a point when you recognize your self-hatred and can actually dispose of it and any of the host who use it, and really understand the meaning of it.

I think, it starts with knowledge, which is to know about the self-hatred (in this case) then understanding, which is to begin to understand what it means in your situation, and then the experience of it finally brings home the complete reality of what must be done.

I used self-hatred in my case, because it is a struggle for me. But one eventually I think understands the process of actually setting aside feelings (as before the cross) and walking by the grace of God.

It doesn't necessarily take going to China on a mission trip - such a thing may fool you as the struggle of such a trip may contrast too sharply with what your real life is to be like - so don't use a huge challenge or wait for one - a mountaintop experience - to grow. I can't really explain it so that you can experience it.

If only I had a parable.

8/28/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

What an extraordinary consensus.

8/28/2007 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Stu said...

I was thinking the same thing, River. We must be on to something here!

8/28/2007 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

That sounds like the Royal We, stu; as in I AM onto something...

8/28/2007 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

I am too familiar with periods of darkness. What is being exposed to the light here is profoundly moving. I am blessed to be among such people; it's such a comfort.

Corrie Ten Boom said this: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

Wolf Scent
something in the air
wapiti stamp and listen
arnold buys his tag

8/28/2007 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger wired216 said...

**anon from above, I figured I should sign in**


I was just reflecting on my 2 weeks on the porch. What really changed things for me was such a simple thing. The fireflies starting coming up one night and I don't know why but I wanted to catch one. 3 - 4 nights in a row I'm running around like a kid trying to catch a firefly while my boyfriend is laughing along *with* me. Finally I caught one.. I had it cupped in both hands and when I lifted the top hand she didn't immediately fly away... she sat in my palm and blinked a bunch of times... then she left and I was so happy in that moment. The whole thing was just beautiful... I got all veklempt and went back to the porch and held my boyfriend's hand and I just knew that the darkness was leaving. That I was were I was supposed to be.

8/28/2007 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

Otis reaching out like you have has, in my experience always been the biggest, hardest and yet the fastest step to regaining a sense of equilibrium. You're not alone. We've all had our small little boats tossed about on some rough seas. Some have recommended finding a safe harbour and putting ashore for a while, which I agree with. Then when you're strengthened and are ready and able to set a new course, keep looking for the lighthouses with your name on them. One of mine said: 'You're perfect just the way you are, barnacles and all.'

8/28/2007 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Coonified said...

Lets see...

No one can really beat Aurobindo's letters coupled with western psychology, but as for my part, i would ask these questions to myself.

Where does it hurt?

That is, where does the majority of the "disorientation" and "anxiety" come from. For example, I've never felt anxiety in my head, only a lack of flow and understanding. Rather, most of that stuff comes from the heart and gut, any lower would be archaic. Anxiety is constraction aginst the impingment of horizontal forces (horizontal doesn't equal evil, rather horizontal is evil in proportion that it makes itself absolute, and to the extent that it forgets that it's doing so), which basically means that your running out of room (space) and if you don't do the right thing (open to the vertical), then you'll start creating time (the drama of ignorance (projection emotional and mental)).

Here's a good analogy about plants and pots and great chains, and we'll just concern ourselves with body and mind.

In the "body world" all the plants have a body sized pot, say five inchs, and the light that lifts them up is infinite, therefore their need is for the infinite. Like any jungle, the plants that can get to the top first are the ones that get to the light, at least in body world. So, there is inevitable suppression, and as the plants all go through the body world the majority get root clot; the momentum of the need has to go somewhere, so it just knots up. Well in this story they all get to the mind world (a blessing and a curse in one loving package), and their pot size now is 5in ^2. There's way more room here, but their in the same situation, just a different plane. And the story goes on...

Root clot (pathology) can't solve it's own problem. In fact, i would say that the spirit trapped in those places actually like it there. Even if the clot gets room to grow by surrender and grace, it still may take years--depending on how beat up they are--to unwind. The body grows very slowly, and metabolizing these things takes time, even more so when you have to suffer daily.

The next question I guess would be, what are the causes, or the particular details of the impingements. That takes personal work. A good understanding of object relations, projective-identification, and shadow work are pretty basic.

And lastly, how do I eliminate the cause. This of course depends on the particulars and also takes personal work. There's really too many factors to give any real answer. Are you holding top down or organizing bottom up? Or are you at the polor shift? What's your temperment. Etc. I don't know.

This is just a generalized formula from my own battle, not that i'm done yet. Hell goes on...

8/28/2007 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Alan said...

A very interesting discussion.

What has worked for me has been to look for opportunities to reach out and help others during these dry periods. Not that I remember to do that enough but as long as we are around others we are being presented continually with opportunities to serve and there is something about serving that helps light up a darkened soul, IMHExperience.

8/28/2007 01:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Van said...

"I feel like my mind is embroiled in a battle of psycho-spiritual attrition. I feel immobilized on every front -- spiritually, creatively, socially, financially... everything."

Ooh! Ooh! Mr. Kotter! Note my hand waving way up high!

"Nearly every practical effort of my rational mind triggers a rabid, debilitating tantrum by counter-protesting, well organized mind-parasites (who might as well be funded by George Soros). And I mean every action. Something as benign as returning a phone call from a friend, mustering the energy to get to the gym, taking the basic steps to finding work."

Or having to stand and put a HotPocket in the microwave and tap in 2:30. Too much. Fist comes down on the table Wham![BTW, frozen hotpockets will splatter all over the kitchen. Just saying](and does hurling a toilet out the door and across the hall because it won't fit on the wax ring properly, count?)

"I've lost my fire, my passion, my will. I'm a stove clicking, waiting on a match. Again, I know I need to suck it up and do what must be done. But when the time comes I get dizzy, disoriented, and overcome with anxiety.... As my various delusions of stumbling into some road to Damascus moment melt away, I'm left wondering how one develops The Will to overcome these forces."

Oh, been there done that to the 'T'. Wish I could say it's entirely in the past-tense. Somewhat, but not all, no way.

Isn't this a problem which 'those who know' are particularly susceptible to? We set up our knowledge of how things are, of knowing why the world operates as it does, and we just expect ourknowing to metabolically transform into doing. Hamlet, anyone? Thoughts, no matter how grand, no matter how well understood, if they are so far removed from our actual actions - nothing follows. One low level example is that any pro athlete knows exactly how they should respond in nearly any situation, but if they don't practice daily and extensively, they begin to fall apart. There is some correlation there between proceedural and moral knowing, and what we are physically doing - if they aren't in tandem, they won't play out smooth and graceful in our daily behavior. Mind and body need to be well practiced in working together.

"I've tried many times to develop a routine practice..."
and Annonymous said "As to everything else the best advice I can give it just to quit trying."

For me it wasn't to quit trying, but to quit trying what I little 'w' wanted, which was in conflict with what I was big 'W' willing to do. Oh man can the mystic goal setting method to [insert Anthony Robbins voice]'Excellence!' tear your guts out and make you pass them as kidney stones! You make your list 'Task 1 3x daily, Task 2 follows the results gained from Task 1..." 1x of Task 1 doesn't happen, Task 2 doesn't work, you double and redouble your efforts! What? Didn't help? Quadruple!!! and... insert explosive meltdown here. This isn't limited to business matters by any means, "I'm going to stop and smell the roses today... woops, missed that one, I'll smell the nex... uh-oh, well the next rose bush I pass I'll stop and sm... Argh!['One Adam 12, see the lady, reports a crazed person seen ripping rose bushes out by the roots and assaulting passers by with the thorns']

At that point getting up to shower takes a metaphysical mental wrestling match to even get out of bed.

My worst 4 years came in the transition from single musician, to married salesmen. Adultolescent to Father. A mix of the most satisfied I'd ever been, and the most dark, self loathing imaginable.

One problem is we don't usually pay that close of attention to what we really seek, and instead try to force ourselves to do what we've convinced ourselves we want. Do any of us like being TOLD what to do? Does it make any difference whether the person doing the telling is standing before us or in the mirror? I don't think so.

Even if you manage to acheive that kind of 'success', as the latest successful actor in the headlines who apparently tried to off himself... it never comes to you. It's got to flow from out of our choices and actions, or drudgery follows, sucking the technicolor from life, and leaving all shades of grey.

For me, it took letting go of what I thought I should want to be, and seek for what I was happy being. For me it took starting out small to get back on track. And I mean small. Flossing. I had a meltdown "I can't even manage to floss my teeth, much less do X!"[all the hygenists cringe]. Took a while, but I finally got that habit to be a habit, then another... .

Still though, if you're ever around when I'm doing any plumbing, do like my family does, RUN!

8/28/2007 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

It's a little difficult for me to comment on Otis' dilemma, except that, Bob asked for opinions. So, these were my thoughts as I read today's post:

You have my sympathies, Otis! Any sort of creative block, or Dark Night, is very uncomfortable!

Sounds like you've already tried the ten thousand things, so "more new techniques" is not likely what will address your need. As far as "different approaches" go, I would say you could follow Mrs. G's suggestion to "make like a kitten", and what Alan, Nomo, and others suggested re seeking out opportunities to help others; these are usually about all you need if you actually do them, and can be carried very far.

I noticed as I read that you described your predicament in detail, and that it seems to permeate your perceptions right now. But as I read, I wondered, "What does Otis expect?" I don't mean that flippantly, at all.

When I have gotten tangled up in my own web in the past, at some point I have noticed that underneath the discomfort are expectations that are being frustrated. Such as? Well, Walt often expects:
- to get my way;
- that 'comfort' should be my natural state;
- that "more spiritual" will somehow equal "feels better";
- that "trying harder" will actually work;
- that the "me" that (finally) meets God will be a "Me +" i.e. a "Perfected ME"

Now, where exactly are those things written? Nowhere exactly, yet sometimes such things run me! Cue the chorus:

"It don't really happen that way at all...."

To "Come Home" from the entanglement almost always involves some form of the following, in the following order:

- Be quiet;
- Come to my senses, and remember to breathe;
- Aim forward and up;
- Ask for Help;
(and repeat as necessary.)

As Bob's Jewish benefactor suggested, if this seems difficult, pretend to do it.

Also, go to the inner Menu, click on "Blessed Beyond Reason" (your words, Otis), and "move-it-to-front."

Finally, I am reminded by your letter of a saying of a former teacher of mine, who said "Enlightenment consists of learning to enjoy the confusion." Oh, how I hated those words at the time, and yet....

Best of luck!

8/28/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Wow! So much wisdom is flowing through the OC today!
Treasure everywhere I look.

At the moment, all I can add is to expound on what Walt said.

Gratitude. To be grateful, even if you have to "fake" it.

It is often true in my own life that it is far easier to recognize all the pain and what brings the pain I have inside, and which assaults from without, than to count my blessings.

And have you ever tried being thankful for that "thorn" in your side?
Yeah. Are you kiddin' me? That's crazy talk.

And yet, crazy as it seems, gratefullness; giving gratefullness priority over the multitude of "stuff that friggin' hurts like hell", will profoundly change your attitude and your heart.
Especially when you thank God for the "stuff that friggin' hurts like hell."

It's pretty much self evident as to why one (me) would hesitate to go that far.

I mean, it's tough but doable to be grateful for blessings.
And the more I do that, the easier it is to see my blessings.

So are the Dark Nights, Dark Weeks, Dark Months, Dark Years of the soul blessings?
Is unimaginable, excruciating pain a good thing?

That depends. Are you grateful for it? Do you dare thank God for the desert, knowing He may "give" or "allow" more of it?

That's why I'm kinda jumpy when I sail into those waters.
I'm inclined to just pass through that fog as fast as I can.

Dropping the grateful anchor is perhaps the most difficult "thing"
that I can do, because damnit! I deserve some sympathy! I like to wallow in self pity every now and then. Somebody help me!

Droppin' that grateful anchor is usually the last resort, when you're sick n' tired of bein' sick n' tired.

Bein' grateful requires a top down motivation from within.
Fortitude or just plain craziness.
You decide.

All I can say is, it works for me, but it's definitely not somethin' I constantly practice.
Maybe after I lose the rest of my mind...

8/28/2007 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Here's a little aside -

I was sent a list of books recently, and because of today's discussion, noticed that on it was Dark Night of the Soul, by Thomas Moore. Amazon lists 50 used ones, from $.98 up. Moore is one of those writers described as "accessible," but his books do cover a lot of territory on the subjects he writes about.

8/28/2007 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

This is a VERY interesting one. But, of course “Otis” is Bob or perhaps Walt, no wait maybe Lisa or probably all of us, but most likely me. Since it sounds like most everyone has “been there – done that” or “am there – doin that” all the insights have been very helpful, at least for me.

8/28/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Van said...

What Ben & Walt (tm) said !
(try their Rocky Road Iseecreed, it's yummy!)

8/28/2007 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan Lee said...

I find this same thing happening to me periodically – all my initiative, creativity, joie de vivre… dries up and all I can do is make it through the day, then sit around in the evenings reading trashy novels, and sleeping a lot. Not even interested in a look at One Cosmos…

Experience says it’s a readjustment period (Although the B vitamins help a lot by keeping me emotionally even). Y’know how it is when you are totally focused on something, working as hard as you can in one area, maybe getting pretty good at it. . . but suppose that you have gone as far as you “should” in one direction… maybe God has something next in mind for you that’s different from what you’ve been doing… And to be able to change direction, you must come to a full stop… It’s a chance to absorb all you have been through.

A nondescript, “unmarketable” crop is being grown in a fallow field, but it’s refreshing and reinvigorating the soil for the next productive crop.

My personal remedy- Relax, try (but not too hard) to percieve what you are supposed to be learning. Stay alert for signs to where your path might be heading, and “Be still, and know that I AM God” (Ps. 46:10).

8/28/2007 05:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Van said...

And by the way, a quote from yesterday's post fits in here rather well too (just substitute Popular self-motivational program gives You Secrets for Success! for 'Political Program':

"But if you have even a modicum of personal insight, you know bloody well that no political program could ever cure you, you sick bastard, any more than socialized medicine could make Michael Moore just put down the freaking fork, okay?"

(of course no offense against unwell people of questionable parentage intended)

8/28/2007 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

My hand is raised.

Speaking of Unknown Friends:
Excerpts beginning on the bottom of page 413 of Meditations on the Tarot:
Our Unknown Friend refers to Origen and St John of the Cross, describes one reaching a “mature spiritual age”. St John says, “(when) they are weak and tender, no door is closed to them… God now leaves them in such darkness…He leaves them in such dryness that they fail to receive satisfaction and pleasure from their spiritual exercises…find them distasteful and bitter. …when God sees that you have grown a little he weans them from the sweet breast so that they might be strengthened… and grow accustomed to walking by themselves.

When I read this recently and still it seems like a hopeful thing. Of course it would.

Blessings, Otis.
Rick

8/28/2007 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Holy cow!
I haven't posted much of anything all summer. Too damn tired. And I'm not quite sure what to say here, except:

*gosh- me too*
Warning- I'm gonna' vent.

Last week my wife wanted me to go to some gathering or other. Artists! Musicians! People who want to talk about Art! Music! Philosophy! Life, the universe and everything!
Yeah. Like I want to sit around with a bunch of fuckin' moonbats talking about art.
Art seems like an utterly trivial and foolish waste of time. And don't even get me going on artists. I'd rather have another root canal.
This, mind you, is coming from someone who thought nothing of working a five year burn, seven days a week, six hours per day and more cranking out one stone carving after another, doing the gallery, and art show thing, and all that crap.
I used to pour heart and soul into creating beauty. It defined my existence. Now it just seems stupid. Now I feel a greater sense of satisfaction from pouring and finishing a slab of concrete.

So I talk to my neighbor a while back, and we got on the subject of Bible study, and he tells another neighbor who is all in to Calvary Chapel, and that neighbor (kindly) shares some Greg Laurie, "Do we really get to see our loved ones in heaven?"
*ack*
And of course my wife shows up with some "touching" subtitled Czech movie about a lovable old guy...

And my mother sits in the living room in the same spot she has occupied for the last fifteen years staring at the Discovery Sickness, Disease, Deformity, and Death Channel: "Gee, they removed a sixteen pound tumor form some siamese twins' rectum, and showed the whole operation! Next hour- tropical parasites, and the maiming and crippling diseases they cause!"

I can't get no Satisfaction, it seems. I'm damn near always irritable inside. It takes a huge effort not to let it loose on my wife, or my mother (who is driving me stark starin' nuts!)

The only things that seem real or enjoyable to me are work, and my slow jouney through the Old Testament. (I'm in the middle of Joshua)
In a lot of ways I feel like I don't even know me anymore.
And yet.
I am glad to be alive. Last year at this time I couldn't walk around the block. This year at this time I'm moving furniture, pouring concrete, and digging out sprinkler lines. I cherish every drop of sweat and mud. The sense of holiness still suffuses any task I lay my hands to. Is digging a ditch the best use of my talents? I don't care. I like it. I'd rather hang with the maintenance crew than the faculty any day.
I don't know where I'm going with this.
"Do you want to carry the fire?"
The questions still rings in my gut, and I still answer, "yes".
But look at all the stuff that has burned away! And what is being tempered in the flame?
Enough. I gotta' go eat.

JWM

8/28/2007 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

jwm,
"Is digging a ditch the best use of my talents?"

Sometimes, it most certainly is.

(I know what you mean about hanging out with artists - the one thing I dislike about my Friday group is that they are all moonbatty, to some degree or other.)

8/28/2007 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Another tirade by JWM!

8/28/2007 05:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Van said...

Susan Lee said "I find this same thing happening to me periodically – all my initiative, creativity, joie de vivre… dries up and all I can do is make it through the day... A nondescript, “unmarketable” crop is being grown in a fallow field, but it’s refreshing and reinvigorating the soil for the next productive crop."

This is true, and I think somewhat normal, isn't it? For me, some form of this happens fairly regularly, and I often find myself able to take a somewhat perspectivised view of 'Oh look, a mild depression is passing through again. Interesting. Wonder what's for dinner'. Of course 'often find myself able' and 'perspectivised' should be mentioned along with my wifes term for the onset,

'Van's Menstrial SinDrone', or VMS.

And for advice,

"My personal remedy- Relax, try (but not too hard) to percieve what you are supposed to be learning. Stay alert for signs to where your path might be heading, and “Be still, and know that I AM God” (Ps. 46:10). "

... is hard to beat.

8/28/2007 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

I do not comment frequently here, but Ms. Otis' words resonated most powerfully with me. I can't help but wonder if the similar experiences reported by so many are not indicative of something more than personal in the present time.

I wish I had something more profound to add, but Alan mentioned the following: "What has worked for me has been to look for opportunities to reach out and help others during these dry periods."

Recently a woman with whom I work, and am reasonably good friends became gravely ill. She ended up in the hospital for nearly 3 weeks. Although she lives alone, being divorced, and her children grown; she has a large circle of friends, and her parents live near by. She was never at risk of not being well cared for.

While she was in the hospital, her freinds visited her constantly, sent flowers, and cards, and generally did everything they could to keep her spirits up.

I moved into her house, to take care of her beloved Australian Shepard, at the request of her mother. My contribution, permitted my friend's mom to avoid twice daily trips to her daughter's house, to feed and walk the dog. Her time was much better spent tending to the more serious needs of her daughter.

This was not a chore for me at all. She lives only about a mile from me, and frankly, her house is nicer than mine. I also happen to like her dog quite a bit anyway.

My friend is fully recoverd now, and in thanks she cooked me dinner two weekends ago. During dinner, she told me that of all the things anyone did for her while she was sick, taking care of her 'baby' was the most important to her. I had not made any sacrifice at all to my mind, but the sincerity of her gratitude was overwhelming.

That was the best I have felt about myself in some time. (A little embarrassed - in a good way - actually.) I guess my point is that a small effort to take care of someone else's needs, can often be vastly more rewarding than a great effort to take care of your own.

I'm not out of the weeds yet, but perhaps this points a way.

8/28/2007 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

JWM,
One man’s mower clippings is another’s concrete.

8/28/2007 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Matteo said...

Forgive me for being blunt, but it seems to me that what Otis is hungering and thirsting for are the sacraments, primarily Confession to be liberated from the oppressive weight of sin and thereby restore full friendship with God, and the Eucharist in order to be directly nourished by the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Strengthened by these, the performance of acts of mercy are called for (visiting the sick in a nursing home, for example).

Of course, the sacraments are not a magic wand that are guaranteed to put you in happy-happy land, but being without them is certainly no picnic. And as far as I've experienced there really is no substitute.

Just two-cents worth from a mystical Catholic guy, who converted to the Church after reading Meditations on the Tarot about ten years ago...

8/28/2007 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Corrie Ten Boom said this: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

Love that quote.

"I have to trust and have faith that God knows what he is doing with me better then I know myself."

We've finally gotten to the other side of an extended tough time. It was hard for both of us, but a tougher time for my spouse than for me; & helplessly watching someone else in pain is also painful.

I can affirm with full confidence that God does know what he is doing! One thing that kept going through my mind was Peter's experience of stepping out of the boat onto some very scary water...and the reocurring thought that if I just kept my eyes fixed on Jesus instead of the waves, I would not sink! "When I am afraid, I will trust in you."

8/28/2007 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

OK, JVM has lit [or is it lighted] my fire. Anyway, he didied it.

The reason I don't watch TV or even read much news anymore is because I'm sick and tired of my own auto-judge soundtrack that gets plugged in and repeats and repeats: "stupid, idiots, fucked up, assholes, jerks, dorks". Tuning out and tuning in to Reality and Truth and Beauty and Goodness which is everywhere is such a huge turn-on as is being a Stephen Minister. It suits my introverted nature. No leading seminars or Sunday School classes for me. Give me uno en uno. It's so easy to care when you have faith in He Who Cures.

wv agrees: ykatv

8/28/2007 07:49:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Ditto Julie on B vitamins. B12 with Folic Acid helps quiet 'the chorus', as Julie's beasties are called in my family.

My recent Dark Night came with endless droning on their part & a clenched stomach with nausea that made it impossible to eat. Not good. So Otis, if you can, keep an eye on meeting your body's nutritional & fuel needs, even if you have to choke stuff down, as I did.

Also featured was a sudden complete shutdown of interest in anything, an inability to bear things I'd always loved: not now, go away, stop it, shut up, leave me alone. Only the cats & Beaky did not make me more nuts, as tho any kind of human input via the 5 senses was too much. Just wanted to cocoon on the couch or found myself repeatedly wandering aimlessly from room to room.

Forget doing useful/positive anything. Frankly my dear, I didn't give a crap; besides, it was pointless. Only when the neighbor's pounding music drove me outside & away from the house for long walks did I find a bit of relief. Spent hours in a park, sitting under an oak tree, watching the river flow by, not doing anything 'useful' or 'productive'. That really helped.

Looking back, I'd spent decades stuffing more stuff into my head, cramming more & more in, filling it to bursting - which it finally did! Like an overworked muscle, one day it quit working & swelled up with fluid, so it could not be worked any more. A forced rest, if you will.

My walks took me past a storefront where 12step meetings were taking place & many of the cars had stickers adorning them. Some of the sayings struck a chord & gave me something to ponder while sitting under the oak.

Musing here, on how AA bumper sticker slogans apply to getting thru dark periods, since substance abuse results in similar conditions & is, at heart, a spiritual problem. Other comments today are littered with them.

Let go & let God
One day at a time
First thing first
Easy does it
But for the Grace of God
Keep it simple
Bring the body and the mind will follow
If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere
Look after the little things
I came -I came to - I came to believe
Change is a process, not an event
Take what you can use and leave the rest
If I serve, I will be served
We give it away to keep it
Trust god.........clean house........help others
It's a pity we can't forget our troubles the same way we forget our blessings
Religion is for those who fear god.........spirituality is for those who have been to hell and back

My version of '90 meeting in 90 days' was to go out for those walks & make time for that oak. What do you do when all the old things don't work anymore? What do you do with your hands when you quit smoking? Trying to come up with something on the plus-side was difficult at first, so I did gut-checks to tag the non-starters. By a process of elimination I was able to identify what was left standing. That was a start.

I've come to the conclusion that these phases are some kind of necessary clean-sweep on the way to Unknowing, where all the stuff gets moved out, the surfaces get scubbed & a new color goes on, before selected pieces go back in a new arrangement. With the new set-up, ya-Gno-what-ya-Gno & don't need or want all the crap that filled it before.

8/28/2007 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Another note:
Thank you Bob, and double thanks to you, anonymous Otis for kicking off this topic. And thank you to all my fellow Raccoons for opening up and sharing this stuff.
The narcissist in me always wants to feel like I am just so tragically damn unique- that no one in the history of the universe could possibly be so...

Sorry JWM.

Not only are you not tragically unique, you're actually in some pretty darn good company.
And that ain't so bad.

Love y'all.

JWM

8/28/2007 08:56:00 PM  
Anonymous meatloaf and tomato sauce said...

Endure. Tha's all it is.

8/28/2007 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous aussie wanker no good said...

I think Mrs. Godwin had a good responese with the baby kitten versus the baby monkey approach. One must relax when in the mouth of God. Let the bad times take you, release, relax, focus on clean air and water, good food, and eight hours of sleep, plus moderate excercise. Never let the physical being become obtunded if you can help it.

8/28/2007 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

I went through the bleak months and years when I transitioned from the fast life (roving around the Caribbean, copious cocaine and sex, high-stakes risky business deals, dangerous thrill-seeking in various motorized boats, motorcycles, cars, etc.) which far from being glamorous (although superficially it may have appeared that way) eventually drove me to the point where I was--if not actually suicidial--certainly crushed, drained, defiled and in daily blunt pain.

I still have many, many days where spiritual happiness seems elusive. Often it seems like I'm lost down below somewhere while the raccoons and other spiritual travellers are up beyond, right over the next ridge that I can never quite find...

However it doesn't take much to pull me back from despair. My aunt once told me that even when God's door is shut before us, it opens again with the merest light touch and that glorious golden light comes through once more. I believe that touch for me is in the form of gratitude. Gratitude for living a prosperous and healthy life when I should probably be dead by now, gratitude for having God in my life now, and above all gratitude for my simple existence.

In June I was walking in a Boston park and had an epiphany--the natural landscape, the sunshine, the birds, bees, smells--everything was just so quintessentially right and beautiful that in that moment I realized that just that one single experience of the Divine--that few seconds--makes the entirety of my life worthwhile.

8/28/2007 10:18:00 PM  
Anonymous heavy petting said...

It helps to repeat the words "Tau Mu" about ten or so times a day as you go about your business or are reacting to events in your life.

Tau Mu means "the way of nothing." It's like saying: "If it wasn't this, it'd be something else, and it's all the same. It's all "Mu" (nothing).

In Otis's case its "I feel like sheet these days." O.K... Tau Mu.

Suffering? Tau Mu. Happiness? Tau Mu. Something in-between? Uh, OK, sure. Tau Mu.

What goes on outside doesn't matter. What goes on inside, you would think, matters. Nope. It doesn't.

Paradoxically, however, it ALL does matter to God. It just doesn't matter to you. That's the thing. It ain't yours.

8/28/2007 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Smoov said:
"In June I was walking in a Boston park and had an epiphany--the natural landscape, the sunshine, the birds, bees, smells--everything was just so quintessentially right and beautiful that in that moment I realized that just that one single experience of the Divine--that few seconds--makes the entirety of my life worthwhile."

That was most profound to me, Smoov.
What you say reminds me of the following Psalm:

Psalm 63
1 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

2 To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

3 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.

4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.

5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:

6 When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.

7 Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

8 My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

8/29/2007 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Not only are you not tragically unique, you're actually in some pretty darn good company.
And that ain't so bad.

Love y'all.

JWM"

I second that, John!
What a blessing One Cosmos has become! From Bob to every believer that comments.

8/29/2007 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Ximeze said:
"I've come to the conclusion that these phases are some kind of necessary clean-sweep on the way to Unknowing, where all the stuff gets moved out, the surfaces get scubbed & a new color goes on, before selected pieces go back in a new arrangement. With the new set-up, ya-Gno-what-ya-Gno & don't need or want all the crap that filled it before."

So beautifully said, Ximeze!

8/29/2007 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Mizz E said:
"One of mine said: 'You're perfect just the way you are, barnacles and all.'"

You certainly are, Mizz E!
One of the hardest things to do is to see ourselves as God sees us, and to forgive ourself.
No good comes out of draggin' regrets, guilt and shame around that belongs to a crucified "old man".

8/29/2007 12:35:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Lisa said:
"But I always have to remember that Life is not fair and everyone has problems. It's how you deal with them that defines who you are."

True Wisdom, Lisa!

8/29/2007 12:38:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Mrs. G said:
"One other thing I've found very helpful is when I'm feeling at a real low point and very desperate, I throw myself at The Mother's feet, basically and beg for help. It helps to feel very desperate, in my experience, because I know that I don't have the answers or the power to help myself, so it feels completely honest to ask for help in this way."

So much profoundery, and so little time.
I have a new (gnew?) appreciation for kittens, Mrs. G!
For I am one. Well, maybe a tiger kitten. They look pretty cool. :^)

8/29/2007 12:44:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

James said...
This place is magic.

Aye! That it is, James!

8/29/2007 12:48:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

The coaching strategy is typically

--damage control while waiting for things to untangle (nutrition, medical evaluation, exercise, rest, gentleness to self and others);

and

--enriching the process:

Cultivate one from column a, renounce one from column B... (^.^*).

Job was restored when he prayed for his friends (= irritants & enemies).

Resort to John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul, technically-advanced mysticism for contemplatives, may be less helpful and relevant than monastic remedies for accidie ("spiritual weariness or distress of heart") -- which prescribe contentment (assisted by gratitude), and the work of one's own hands.

See, as well, Walt's citations of Markides on attention and Colin Wilson's fool-proof discovery of concentration, challenge, and flow.

Also, with no waiting in line or other delay, if Ms. Otis is so inclined, (s)he may submit the vivid poetry of regret and indictment with which we-the-highly-verbal explain, enchant, and enchain ourselves --
I'm a stove clicking, waiting on a match / Squandering of such gifts can only be seen as a slap in the face to God / I'[ve] become terrified of genuine knowledge --
to The Work of Byron Katie, the most reliable way I know to extend the horizon and extract the gold/platinum/uranium/aluminum/iron[y] or other useful mettle from the ether-ore.

8/29/2007 04:20:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Afterthought -

We "like" the idea of being spiritual, and the whole concept of being re-born "intrigues" us, and draws us on.

But, we really want to experience it on our own terms. We still hope to be "me" when it happens.

"A man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die..."

We "don't like" the dying part.

Ximeze did put it beautifully, describing it as "some kind of necessary clean-sweep on the way to Unknowing, where all the stuff gets moved out..."

Life ain't the movies. "Dying to the world" ain't all that romantic.

8/29/2007 04:39:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

Once again, a fool for luck and blessedness:
having had a wise teacher explain the Purgative Way, which ya'll have described to a T
the hill, plateau and valley cycle of spiritual growth
and the Dark Night
early on my adult spiritual life.

Understanding what's happening can be cold comfort at the time you're doing the actual suffering, but gives you the incentive to hang on 'til it's over.

What Dilys said. Especially The Work. It's like spraying for the mind parasites.

God bless. Praying for you - and everybody else- already.

What a gift this place is.

8/29/2007 06:06:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Well, that was a lot of dark night in one day.

I must pass this one. I watched "300" last night and it would definitely color my writing, especially after seeing this small band of raccoons facing a million mind parasites. Sorry.

8/29/2007 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

A Clinton-Obama ticket has the endorsement of Castro. Thanks, Fidel!

8/29/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger tater said...

When battle is raging in the darkest of night these are the things that have truly helped:
Ruiz's 4 agreements, Byron Katie's 4 questions and turn around, B vitamins (triple dose recommended on bottle), increase protein intake, decrease processed carbohydrate intake, increase water intake, light incense and offer it as a blessing to the besieging forces, putting water on the body (shower or swim), easy walking cruising for 20 to 30 minutes consciously putting focused attention on objects outside the body. 23rd psalms as a mantra (especially the part about the SHADOW of death). But when in the midst of battle it is difficult to remember these things.

8/29/2007 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gecko said...

Spiraling down that rabbit hole of despair finds me holding on and remembering that I will not be forever in this state, that things always change. Usually what chop wood and carry wateris the best advice and always I remember "not my will but thine be done." When I am still and breathing sometimes the tears come identifying and moving the energy. Thank you Otis for so bravely reaching out. Blessings on you all

8/29/2007 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently undergoing such a time as previously described. I am tired- physically, emotionally, psychologically. I have lost interest in my daily spiritual routine & am in a constant state of dizziness (if i could put a name to it). I have found a key to gaining some type of motivation in these dark times- do it. Do it because you're worth it. Do it because you have more to live for. Do it because you feel like you can't. It is a conscious decision. It was one of the hardest. Someone commented earlier that it started for them with flossing. yes! i decided to put my tennis shoes on. the next day i put them on and went on a walk. somedays you won't keep up, somedays you will. In these dark valleys you cannot look down upon yourself for not accomplishing certain things. Acknowledging the situation, the issues, your emotions, that is a step in the right direction! You have already taken a step toward recovery and healing. Keep all of your positive steps written down. I have written down things I have gained from my experience in this desert & no longer dwell on what has been lost. I remind myself that I am not who I was, a joyful reminder that God is moving me through this desert.
I don't know if any of this helps, but please know you were never alone.

8/29/2007 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous 10 dollar anonymous guy said...

I don't usually post here but I have to add my 2 cents about the vitamin B12 solution that a few people have mentioned. For the past year I have taken various supplements and they have helped my mental state enormously. I take 750 mg of omega 3 fish oil, a B multivitamin tablet, coenzyme Q10, a general multivitimin with selenium and zinc, Pycnogenol, alpha lipoic acid and Acetyl-l-carnitine. I literally feel 10 years younger and am sometimes bursting with energy in a manner I have not felt since I was a teenager 30 years ago. A very interesting side effect is that I have not gotten a cold in about a year, whereas before I would catch a cold every couple of months. Hope this helps, good luck Otis.

8/29/2007 01:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a intellectual simpleton who has nevertheless been through this I have to point out that it doesn't have to be nearly this involved, but I guess we have our individual karmic baggage although the way we handle it makes a difference.

So I guess my words will probably be less than helpful, but I think the best I can offer is to point out that it's simply a matter of perspective. I know I don't matter. But I don't operate based on that motivation anymore, which is a clear difference from what I can see. Now the interesting thing is as a simpleton I am not as high functioning as my intellectually superior counterparts, yet when it comes to this process it is no longer an issue which may make me more functional even if it's not in such an intellectually stimulating way. So clearly the baggage is the hinderance, but you don't need to hear that from someone like me I'm sure. As dull as I am I do know responsibility doesn't lie in some imagined identity, though - and maybe recognition of that allows us to get on with it.

Look, this may not sound nice but it's the bottom line: On 'this side' there is no interest in 'helping you' to do or be whatever it is you think ... whatever you've thought up. I never gave this much thought to my process, I just let it burn through me. You can either resist kicking and screaming in an articulate way, perhaps with a good dose of rationalization and/or avoidance or you can let it happen.

8/31/2007 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger night sky said...

I'm not a regular reader here (that may change). I found your blog through someone linking to this particular post.

One more "take" on Ms. Otis's situation:

Diagnosis: combination of depression and normal spiritual journey. (Been involved deeply in both, details look all too familiar.) :-)

For depression: exercise, every day. Do it even if you don't want to, even if you don't have the initiative, even if you have to make a pact with a friend to do it with you. Exercise outdoors, to get the sunlight in addition.

Plenty of studies (you can find them online) second the efficacy of this suggestion. It worked, and continues to work, for me. And it's drugless.

For the spiritual journey: patience. Frustration, extreme frustration, is normal.

Ms. Otis wrote, "and now I'm waking up to the blunt truth that knowledge alone will not save me. It's going to take more commitment, responsibility, intuitive, maturity, and a strong will to break through."

She's right about the knowledge part. But the second sentence is the opposite of what's needed. I'd suggest surrender. Of course, easier said than done.

9/01/2007 03:23:00 PM  

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