Many of the learnings from “waking up” come all in a flash – but many others unfurl gradually, progressively over time. Even a relatively good learner can learn only so much at a time.
Waking up opened up to me a whole new world of insight, awareness and clear vision. But – even with the unfailing guidance of Spirit – I am still only imperfectly able to hear or understand what Spirit is telling me. I did not understand that becoming “enlightened” (I’ll use that esoteric word for a teaching purpose here, even though I don’t much like the rarified sound of it) starts with an explosion, but then continues through many continued mini-teachings.
My recent infected foot crisis was a manifestation of my crisis in my relationship with rest. I’ve never been a true workaholic. Enneagram 7’s are all about play and creativity. But we are poly-addictive. We usually float among many different addictions, rather than settling in with one – which would be, let’s face it, boring.
But when there is no romance or sporting or other juicy thing around for us to feast excessively on, we can pursue work addictively – to suck all the juice we can get out of it. And when it’s creative, fun work that we are doing, it can be hard for a good little 7 to resist. In my 20’s, I used to say that I wanted a tattoo reading “Everything to excess.” I also used to say “I want to experience everything once. And, if I didn’t like it the first time, then maybe twice – in case the first debacle was just a fluke.”
A couple of weeks ago, the insights and visions were coming at me through a fire hose – there was just no way I could keep up with all the blog posts wanting to be born. I took to making voice recordings walking down the street with my dog – or even, sorry you other drivers, when I was driving. But many of these blog posts are still sitting, unharvested, in my phone. I became almost desperate to retrieve everything I had seen, heard, felt or finally understood.
I have for my whole life had a tormented relationship with sleep. I have always been too excited about being awake to want to spend my time unconscious. When, starting in my forties, I started manifesting the symptoms of “depression” (these days I am insisting on substituting the word “contraction”), one of the strongest symptoms that something was going terribly wrong – that I was truly suffering from excruciating pain – was that I wanted only to be asleep, to be unconscious.
For three years in my early thirties, I was an extremely passionate “disciple” of a guru (his disciples affectionately called him “guru”), Sri Chinmoy, who encouraged you to function with minimal sleep. I learned so much in those three years, had so many gorgeous spiritual experiences. I still think, after some controversy about him has emerged, especially since his passing in 2007, that he was the real McCoy – that I can still trust most of what went down for me in those three years. He was the meditation teacher of famous guitarists Mahavishnu John McLaughlin and Devadip Carlos Santana, whose album Love, Devotion and Surrender made guitar jazz history.
align=”alignnone” width=”400″] Sri Chinmoy with “Mahavishnu” John McLaughlin and “Devadip” Carlos Santana, on the back of their classic progressive jazz guitar album “Love, Devotion and Surrender” – named for the three pillars of Bhakti Yoga. [/caption]
But Sri Chinmoy’s attitude towards sleep – one of his books is titled Sleep – Death’s Little Sister – was a dangerous influence on this imbalanced boy. When I got off that path, I consulted a “holistic” chiropractor for some disturbing physical symptoms I was having. He ran some blood work and did some other tests and told me:
“Your adrenal gland is shot – shrunk down to almost nothing. You are going to have to get a lot of rest for a long time – and take a lot of expensive supplements, which I can sell you – to rebuild it. When you get excited about some idea or activity, make your first step be to take a nap.”
Was it just that I was experiencing whiplash from suddenly jumping off the speeding train that was the source of my momentum – that I had wandered away from Shangri La, the only place that kept aging at bay? I think some of that probably was true.
Since “waking up” three months ago, the whole-body physical pain that for thirty years has defined what I have called “depression” has gotten more painful. And, whereas it had obtained only during my “depressed” periods (averaging maybe three weeks, but sometimes much longer), now it is with me 24/7, whether my energy is expanded (“mania”) or contracted (“depression”).
I have averaged four hours of sleep a night for three months. Was it truly accurate when I would say that “I wake up in such pain that I can’t lay in bed any more and go looking for something to distract me from the pain, even if the best thing I can come up with is reading the Washington Post online.” (I am a huge political junkie – especially scanning for any signs that Trump is imploding or that Elizabeth Warren is finding her voice and picking up momentum.)
Being “awake” now does not give me license to abuse my body. Two weeks ago – when my doctors were sternly telling me to “stay off that foot” and “keep it elevated” – I was totally blowing off their prescribed treatment, in service of my writing. Yeah, I would try to do my word processing on the love seat in my living room with my laptop on my lap – with my foot elevated on a pillow on the coffee table and my trusty dog next to me
– but when I could no longer stay awake sitting down, I would stand for hours at my “standing desk” (my laptop on top of my dresser), so that I could keep cranking out creative product. In my excitement to capture and convey the fantastic insights I was having, the beautiful visions I was viewing, I just did not know how to stop.
The “Support” blog post that I wrote a few weeks ago was imbalanced – and reflected some of the ascetic “pushing” that characterizes the old me more than the new me. It would be an interesting exercise to annotate it with what in it I still feel/believe – and what not. But not interesting enough to make it worth doing. Annotating their writing is something you do with a great man – or a compulsively lying president.
I used to like quoting Swami Vivekananda,
the Indian teacher who in the 1890’s brought Eastern spirituality in a big way to the U.S. One of his most famous quotes was “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” Well, I may have “woken up” (whatever exactly that means – I’m obviously still learning this), but I sure ain’t no Swami Vivekananda. I’m just a baby at this waking up stuff.
Going into the hospital for my badly infected foot stopped me. My neighbor Angie brought in my laptop. Otherwise all those hours in the hospital bed – and then chair – could have been so excruciatingly boring. I still could write, but could not move to my standing desk when I couldn’t stay awake in a sitting position. I had almost no option but to let myself drift off – if only for a few minutes.
I was still able to wake up at three in the morning on my second night there, and say to myself “The world – and even, mostly, this hospital ward – is quiet. This is my chance to hold off on the emails and the Washington Post online, and to do the task I have most been wanting to do – to create that new blog” (this blog) “on Waking Up.“ And I had – exhausted from being delirious the previous night and getting almost no sleep – gone to bed at 9 p.m. and, aside from the one time the nurse came in during the night to take my “vitals”, already had a very solid six hours of sleep.
These days, if I am falling asleep over my laptop on the love seat, I don’t go to the “standing desk”/dresser – I go to bed. Even if I actually do not go back to sleep – even if I just lie there quietly or even a little restlessly from so much still going on in my head – being in the bed breaks my momentum, says to my poor worn-out body “Rest is possible. I am committed to taking kinder care of you. It’s a new world.”
My Panchita loves to sleep. She can be a role model for me around this, can help me to keep some balance in this area. She hates getting up before 9 a.m. Some dogs, when they wake up, are almost immediately up and ready for action. Pancho would rather laze in the bed for another half-hour.