A couple of months ago, earlier in my process of getting used to being a mystic, I took some real satisfaction from trying to reassure people that I wasn’t manic by telling them how I was employing an ancient Tibetan meditation technique – which in Tibet they call “Grounding like a motherfucker.”
I would proceed to describe how often I consciously plant and feel my feet on the ground, how when a customer going through my grocery line seems to not get my sense of humor or to not be in any way charmed by my little verbal patter – instead of getting my feelings hurt or irritated or judgmental with them, I instead thank them inside. In much the same way that the great Vietnamese Buddhist Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh encourages people to thank a red traffic light for grounding us, for stopping our forward momentum and giving us a chance to breathe and drop back into oneness, beingness – in a similar way this customer is giving me a chance to slow down, breathe and not do anything but swipe groceries. Chop Wood, Carry Water is a classic American Buddhist book. Do one thing at a time. Carry your tea with both hands, so you don’t try to do something else with the other hand. “Thank you, Ms. Customer, for ignoring me – you just really helped me to, for a moment, stop ‘performing’ and come back to myself.”
My one real problem with GLMF (“Grounding like a motherfucker”) these days is not the “bad language”. No my real problem with GLMF is that it makes it sound like I am doing it. And, in fact, reassuring my friends, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, etc. that I was “working hard on staying grounded” was exactly what – at that stage in my evolution as a beginning mystic – I thought I needed to do.
These days I am much more likely to say something that perhaps does not reassure my psychiatric listener. But I really do think that – except for my real good friend Tom Kilby, who I think found the GLMF formula mostly entertaining – that phrase was just a little too jocular to really reassure most people that I was appropriately serious about all this.
At the end of last week, I was talking to the supervisor of the home health worker they assigned to me when I was discharged from the hospital over my foot infection – which still was not completely under control. This supervisor was expressing her concern that, since I was reducing my bipolar medication (specifically, right now, Lithium – the “king of the mood stabilizers”), the “unreasonable happiness” (Michael Singer’s definition of enlightenment) I had been experiencing for several months was really mania.
I told her that I was reducing the meds only in consultation with my psychiatrist who knows me very well – and was doing it very gradually. “My ‘waking up’ experience actually happened two months before I started to reduce my meds. I have now been at that process of reducing the meds for three months – and am now off of two of my three drugs. And, at the pace my shrink and I have set, I won’t be off of that last med, Lamictal, for another four months.”
Ellen told me she was very reassured that I was being “careful” about all this. Out of integrity – which, with truth-telling, is so big for me these days – I told her, “Well, let me make you a little less comfortable. Even a couple of weeks ago, I thought the issue for me was to strike a balance between ‘let ‘er rip’ at one end of the continuum and ‘leave it out’ – grounding – at the other end of the continuum.
I said to her, “But I have reevaluated all of that. The thing I want to do more than anything else (and have actually been doing like a motherfucker) is to surrender to Spirit. The nature of surrender is that you either do it or you don’t. You don’t surrender to Spirit 90% and then save the other 10% for reassuring people you aren’t out of control. You – your ego – really are out of control! That’s the beauty of all of this. So my job is to let go, “let ‘er rip”, surrender. Then, when I do that, Spirit – in addition to big-time supporting my new freedom and release and integrity-expressing improvisational interactions – automatically sends me cues to gear down when that is actually the more useful thing to do.”
My experience is that, if I do my work of surrendering to Spirit, Spirit then very naturally grounds me when I need to be more grounded. This often happens because of my deeply developed faculty of empathy. As soon as I see a friend worried, scared, hurting or even especially serious, my inner pilot says “Something serious is maybe going on here. We are going to drop the hilarity, the high energy, get serious and grounded – and see what is going on.”