I was available for an amazing encounter this afternoon at Earth Fare.
Since my energy “turned down” a week ago today, I have been hanging out in my lower chakras more. My previous six months of fabulous, thrilling high energy were more about inspiration, joy and personal power (including managing my boundaries and learning about conflict – even aggression). It looks like this new phase is going to be even more about connection: taking even deeper the experience of total oneness with everything and everyone around me.
This new energy – far from the “depression” that the psychiatrists thought I would encounter when my up (they thought “manic”) phase passed – is in some ways even more pleasurable – more about contact, love, and surrender to kundalini/sexual/life/cosmic energy. I am breathing deeper than ever, feeling my feet on the ground – and riding that wave. Everything seems so slowed down that I am like chronically stoned. My newfound path of “not pursuing anybody or anything – just letting them come to me” – has dropped even deeper. It feels like my life has become a movie unfolding before me and I am just relaxing in my easy chair (in the “Garden”) and watching it roll by: and it is a beautiful, juicy, thrilling movie. Michael Jordan, talking about basketball, used to talk about “letting the game come to you“. I wonder if this is what he was referring to.
So some deeper part of me was very ready to encounter an astonishing being like Madeleine between the cheese and the pizza. When she looked at me so directly with those indelible blue eyes and sweetly asked if she could pet my dog, I felt a little electrical shock: “Oh my God, who is this amazing person?!” But she turned out to not be really all that special: just a gorgeous 25-year-old mystic who clearly understands some things already that someone her age could not have learned all from experience. Just a totally innocent soul who may have suffered deeply in other lifetimes and even in this one, but is in this moment totally present, totally ready to show up and fully engage with you – if you also are ready to meet her in this magical world she inhabits.
We looked deep in each other’s eyes – there in the grocery store, with so many other people flowing by – and I think we both knew that our souls were dancing joyfully around, making connections between us that our minds would never be able to track.
I gave her the business card for this blog, which I do hope she reads and will either make her want more connection with me and with the Your Fearless Heart work I am beginning to offer – or else she will know right away that this is not her path.
I mentioned my Thursday night gatherings to her and she looked like she might want to come. As our magical 1-minute (2? 30?) came to a close (who released first? I think we did so simultaneously), I breathed and walked away, knowing there was a very strong likelihood I would never see her again. I felt a momentary pang, wishing she would show up at a Thursday meeting. I actually do believe in my heart that they would be good for her – and that contact with me and what I am now giving people might make a real difference in her life.
But so what?! She doesn’t need me and I don’t need her.
Or, more accurately, we don’t need to ever again see each other in these limited bodies. She and I were totally connected to each other before we met this afternoon – and will remain totally connected with each other forever.
Life will continue to bring to her exactly the encounters, teachers, spiritual paths that she needs. As astonishingly open as she is, she will drink deeply of all these experiences and have an amazing life. And, like all humans, she will suffer and lose her way – sometimes, for a while, may even lose the thread…lose track of her divine essence, which right now she is holding so close. But, like me, she will always come back to the path.
And I will, likewise, continue to be brought just the friends, students, teachers and lovers I am meant to have. Since my “waking up” on June 26 and “Second Initiation” on December 3, I seem to be unshakeable in my knowledge of who I am and ferocious about showing up fully for my brothers and sisters, regardless of what forces in my past or my environment might hold me back. I just took a 30-year detour into the world of psychiatry– but, hey, I’m back and more fully alive than I would ever have considered possible. What could be wrong with that?
So Madeleine, if you ever show up for a Thursday evening gathering, my heart will absolutely melt at the sight of you. I may weep for how perfect you are. And, as my friend Fritz Perls would say, “If by chance we meet, it’s beautiful – If not, it can’t be helped.” Or as I would say, we will be feasting at different tables – or, little piggies that we are, slurping at a different food trough further down the road.
There were so many ways that hour could have gone badly. By rights, it should have been a disaster.
The psychiatry profession fucked me badly for 30 years – there’s just no other honest way to tell it. They conned me into believing I had a mental illness and then kept me drugged for 30 years. Only divine intervention rescued me from their hypnotic story. And when, over the last six months, my true Self surfaced, they fought to drag me back into the nest. It just didn’t make sense to them that – after being “bipolar” for 30 years – I could be fine, really much better than fine, now. I tried to get them to read about my “waking up” experience. I tried to get them to read several posts that describe how amazingly calm and quiet andcentered and slow I have become – not at all “manic”, which they think is the only logical explanation for me, as I am reducing my psych medication, to suddenly be non-stop happy for six months. I tried to explain to them that getting off of Lithium didn’t “make me manic” – it allowed me to finally be happy. But none of that fit their model.
Three weeks ago, when I reached certainty that this was true health now – actually much better than health, genuine spiritual transformation – a bomb of rage went off in me about “30 years of my life stolen from me”. On that Saturday, I felt sure that at my next psychiatry appointment I would spend most of the 30 minutes pacing up and down the room “raging” at my poor helpless 31-year old PA (Physician’s Assistant) psychiatrist. It seemed to me, in that moment, to be in no way an inappropriate response for 30 years lost. This story describes how one four-minute song at church the next morning caused me to release most of that rage and replace it with forgiveness. (30 years of deep pain mostly healed in four minutes – healing is happening in me so fast these days!)
By yesterday morning, some of the resentment had slipped back in. I was determined that today I would maybe not start right in at the beginning of the session with my two upsets with this new woman:
Why the unexplained transfer now – and the mysterious letter from my old psychiatrist, saying they were transferring me because of “needing a higher level of care”? What need for a higher level of care? I thought we had agreed that I was on my way out of the practice. I felt sure they were calling in a more experienced, full-psychiatrist heavy-hitter to try to back me down into taking more drugs again.
Why, when I called in my request for the new psychiatrist to read three of my blog posts that would give her a glimpse of my non-manic behavior, did the secretary get back to me with a simple, “She says ‘no’, that she doesn’t do that.”After my last 15 years in the business world (after 20 years practicing psychology), I knew that – if you cared at all about customer satisfaction – you would never turn down a new customer on such an easy request. Had this woman not gotten the memo that we were customers now – not just patients? Well I intended to set her straight on this.
Back in my 20’s, LSD researcher (with Timothy Leary) Richard Alpert turned into an eastern spirituality “seeker” – and was named Ram Dass by his new Indian teacher. He and his classic book Be Here Now turned a whole generation of us towards meditation and eastern spirituality .
At Susan Campbell’s magical Tuesday morning ecstatic dance yesterday, right near the end of the mix she played some gorgeous music with Ram Dass – must have been after his stroke, his speech was labored – speaking over it.
He said so few words that I think I remember them pretty much verbatim:
“On my second visit to Maharaj Ji in India, he took me aside one night and said to me, ‘Love everybody….love everybody and speak the truth.'”
I knew, as soon as I heard these words, that I had gotten my direction for today’s session:
Love this woman, who you have never met, but about whom you already have lots of negative projections (my physician friend Steve, who wonderfully coached me to start slow today – and then went with me to the meeting for moral support) agreed with my perception that “lots of psychiatrists have God complexes. Doctors in general – but it seems like psychiatrists even more so.”
Tell the truth – all of it, including stuff she might not like hearing. Make sure, even as you try not to hurt her, that you get enough of your story said that you are ready – at the end of that session – to walk away from psychiatrists for good, knowing that you were doing it with pride and integrity.
When this new psychiatrist appeared at the door,
she was younger and prettier than I expected.
her face looked soft and warm and human and nice – not at all the control-oriented frigid person I expected.
she was wearing jeans! Nice, tailored, maybe expensive jeans – but jeans. for chrissake! This totally blew my expectations. She looked like “my people”.
Over the course of a session that she had scheduled for 45 minutes (not the 30 that I expected, I guess because it was our first time together) and that she actually allowed to go for 75 minutes, I learned some other ways she was my people:
She, like me, grew up very Irish Catholic. She is well younger than I and was not taught by nuns in the era when they were still teaching that God might hate you enough to make you physically burn to death for eternity – but she was close enough to all of this to know what I was talking about, and why for a young child this had been genuinely traumatic.
When I said that there are so few genuine spiritual teachers around these days to help someone who is actually going through a “spiritual emergency” (as opposed to a mental illness), she rightly protested that “there are some genuinely spiritual eastern-tradition teachers. I’m being very influenced by a Zen teacher named Thich Nhat Hanh.” I really softened and warmed towards her as I shared that I had for four years meditated every week with a Thich Nhat Hanh “sangha” back in Chicago, that during those four years I very much thought of him as “Thay” – Vietnamese for “teacher” – and had attended two ten-day retreats with him. All this appropriately blew her away. If you are a Thay sister with me, you are my sister.
She was also very intrigued by my passionate practice of “ecstatic dancing” – and asked me a couple of questions about that. My energy turned down a week ago. I am supposed to be “depressed” now. Depressed people don’t dance. I continue to dance pretty much all day every day. This confused and intrigued her.
She was also confused that the core symptom of my “depression” was always physical pain, not emotional. This did not fit for her. And that I got the “bipolar” diagnosis when I was in the throes of having my life blown apart by the surfacing of long-suppressed memories of childhood sex abuse. She basically said that she might agree with me that this diagnosis was always incorrect.
I think it was right after talking about Thay that I – now emboldened to talk with “the new psychiatrist” about eastern religion, told her about my experience yesterday with the live words of Ram Das: “So I came in here today planning to love you – and to tell the truth.” I think she may have even blushed ever-so-slightly and sweetly as she thanked me for that. Whoulda thunk we could have had a moment like that?
I went into the session feeling strong because – rather than the usual power imbalance where the psychiatrist has something you think you need, the drugs – I was clear that I had enough Lamictal left to wean myself off almost slowly enough to not have too bumpy a ride. So, very important to me, I in no way felt one-down to her going in. And I know from many experiences over the last six months that literally nobody can intimidate or scare me any more – and that I speak my full truth with integrity pretty much 100% of the time. And I came out of the session feeling just that way.
Very surprisingly, while the doctor told me her concerns about me getting off of this final (of three) drugs, she did outline for me what she thought would be a good pacing for “weaning off” of the Lamictal – and I happily told her that this was exactly the timing I had in mind. She said brightly, “Well don’t try to cut those pills down twice – let me prescribe 50 mg. tablets – that will make it a lot easier for you.” It was not a problem for me – after originally committing myself to “want nothing and take nothing” from her – to graciously accept her offer. (And it actually will make reducing my dose much more convenient.)
As the session was nearing an end (we had already run 30 minutes over), she offered that I could come back in a month and fill her in on how things were going for me as I weaned off my last medication. Charming and cute as she certainly was, I was very clear that I had entered a psychiatrist’s office (as a patient, at least) for the last time – and that I would call in a progress report to her.
As I was saying goodbye, I was feeling so genuinely warm towards her that I had a fantasy of offering her a hug. I knew there was no chance of that flying, but our handshake – and real looking in each other’s eyes – were just right, perfect.
A minute after we drove away, I let out a big exhale and said to Steve (driving me back to my car), “Wow! That was a big deal!” And then, completely unbidden, the words that popped out of my mouth were, “I’m glad that 30 years is over.” And I laughed – a very hearty, very happy laugh.
For the last six months, I have been telling myself a story of “waking up”. On June 26th – after a very difficult year and finally just bottoming out and truly giving up hope for my life, something snapped: I saw clearly all the lack of integrity that had slipped into my life and made a 100% commitment to take it back.
Or actually I just saw a lot of the lack of integrity – as I clear up one area on non-integrity, the next one surfaces. It seems maybe never-ending, but each area of my life I put into integrity just makes me happier and stronger – makes my life better.
I have been non-stop happy for six months. Michael Singer (The Untethered Soul) defines “enlightenment” as “unreasonable happiness”. That’s been me for the last six months – happy without any reason for it, or even in the face of some problem (infected foot that put me in the hospital, an overdrawn checking account) that would usually have made me unhappy.
And, for my psychiatrist, that six months of being happy is all the proof she needs that I am “manic”. After all, I have been diagnosed as “bipolar” for 30 years. (I no longer agree with this diagnosis.) And – very gradually and in complete collaboration with her – I have for several months been weaning myself off the potent concoction of three psych drugs I had been taking. And she sure doesn’t get this business of “spiritual transformation” – to her, that is just more proof that I’ve been going off the deep end.
The only four times I have gotten sad or scared in the last six months have happened the day after she – or one home health worker who followed me when I left the hospital with my foot infection still active – have directly attacked my newfound spiritual and personal happiness. They have directly said to me that this all – all the wonderful things that have happened for me over the last six months – is all just “mania”. That I will wake up one day, probably soon, terribly depressed – and that depression will probably be long and very deep. I will probably become a big suicide risk. And that being depressed then will confirm that I have been manic for the last six months – and that therefore none of my good experiences have any validity.
Is it already clear to you just how cruel and utterly wrong this stuff is? And these nasty messages worked! While, in the moment, I clearly and calmly pushed away these destructive ideas, they actually slipped into my unconscious. Thirty years of psychiatric hypnosis, in which I believed the idea that I had a “mental illness” – and that only the doctors’ drugs held any possible respite for me – went to work on me overnight.
By the morning, the undiagnosed “psychogenic” pain that greets every morning – and that for the last six months I have found no longer intimidating and have, with more or less effort, always pushed past – that morning loomed very oppressive and frightening. My whole story had changed and I was believing that I probably had really been “manic” – and that now I was “depressed”, and that basically everything had turned to shit.
In that state, I started to tell myself that these last six months were “just a story I had told myself”. It took me a few days to realize, “What is not a story we are telling ourselves?” Everybody has got a different story about the nature of God or the meaning of life. So much of our life is determined by whether we tell a story that we are a winner or a loser – or whether life is benevolent, on-our-side… or whether the deck is stacked hopelessly against us.
What about the psychiatric hypothesis is not a made-up story? None of them knows what “bipolar disorder” really is. It’s just a name/diagnosis they made up, so they could go ahead and try to treat it. “Mania” and “depression” are just medical names they made up for some behaviors that they still do not understand. The drugs they use to treat this “disorder” are totally trial-and-error – they just try one after another until one seems to help, and it never helps all that much. (One very benevolent psychiatrist, who I trusted a lot, said that usually the drugs never help more than about 5% – but “that’s still 5% less suffering!”)
Yeah, but at what cost? They pretty much all have some pretty potent side-effects. When I told that same, very high-integrity psychiatrist who I saw for three years, that a friend of mine claimed that the reason I don’t cry any more – after many years of having healthy crying available to me as a wonderful release – is because of my meds, he agreed. He said, “Probably that is actually the cause. These ‘mood stabilizing’ drugs tend to mute our emotional highs and lows – and to also somewhat muffle everything in between. You just need to decide whether the trade-offs are worth it to you.” And, lost in pain as I was – pain for which no one had a good explanation or a direction for how I could leave or transcend it – I chose to keep making the terrible trade-off.
I have always greatly preferred the terms “expanded” and “contracted” to the pathology-based terms “manic” and “depressed”. They are purely descriptive – not pertaining to any “illness” – and for me they are very descriptive, they really capture what it is like for me.
I have always had very strong ups and downs. Everybody has them, but mine have always been – and probably will always be – kind of dramatic. In my “up”, expanded cycle, I am happy, creative, productive, emotional (full of powerful genuine human emotions), funny and loving. What’s not to like about that? But even one of my most beloved psychotherapists – a 30 year Buddhist with a very high consciousness and a loving nature, and who genuinely loved me – told me that, because I didn’t seem to need a lot of sleep in this state, it was therefore “disregulated” and no genuine friend to me.
When I am expanded, I don’t just fill the room – I fill the universe! I know that I am one with everything – that, in fact, I belong everywhere I go. I touch the divine. I am completely in touch with core spiritual truths, which meditators spend their whole lives trying to touch.
But then my energy turns down and all this wonderful and genuine spiritual awareness is cruelly snatched from me. Is there any surprise that I might feel bad? Lacking a shaman or other genuine spiritual teacher to explain all this to me – and to help provide me with tools to ride out this rollercoaster – I flounder, I become lost.
Living in a materialistic society, which does not understand or care about spiritual experiences, I don’t have anybody saying to me: “You are genuinely touching God – it is the real thing! Now let me teach you how to integrate that glimpse, to ground it…and to hold on to the truth of it when your energy turns down and all this connectedness is harder to grasp.”
That is my new story about my powerful energy swings – which I will never again refer to by pejorative, made-up names from the destructive psychiatric story. I am on a hero’s quest – not a mentally-ill, crippled, damaged life.
I will find people and resources like my Jubilee Spiritual Community, with its wonderful new minister who totally affirms that I am whole and complete – and whose music (“Amy Steinberg” – five albums on Pandora) helps to ground those ideas in a powerful, emotional, gut experience.
And given that I no longer think of myself and my life as sick, I am free to be very, very grateful. Thank you, God. Thank you, Life. Thank you, Majo.
(Since I first wrote most of this blog post, my energy has actually taken that dreaded “turn-down”. And you know what? Now that I know, in my guts, what it is – just lower energy, not “depression”, not “mental illness” – it is really not such a daunting foe. I have a harder time getting up in the morning – but I do it. I need more sleep overall, but I still manage to have fulfilling days. I am not sad or discouraged – partly because I know in my heart that all the wonderful things I experienced over the last six months were real and good – and awarenesses I can keep building on. “It’s all good.”)
Pancho and I are driving north on Kimberly Avenue, my favorite alternative route to North Asheville. (Let’s face it – Merrimon Avenue is a big pain in the ass, right?). Sitting in the driver’s seat, I am completely rocking out to our new Jubilee minister Amy Steinberg‘s Simplistic Logistics of Existence – which is a totally badass rock ‘n’ roll song .
I say to my little chihuahua, sitting quite contented – and almost always focused on me – “Well what do you think, Pancho? Caffeine high?”
Let’s review: after two days of no caffeine, I decide – when my water bottle turns up empty after lunch – to have a Coke from the Sonic drive-thru. Then, while we are waiting for our car to be repaired at Curtis Hi-Tech in East Asheville, we wander down to Filo coffee and pastry shop, where I have a 16-ounce coffee – and then the refill is 50 cents, so that’s a no-brainer.
So could this be a caffeine high? No question. (I have been pretty sick with a cold all day. This is such a blast! A little vacation from being sick.)
“Do you have any problem with this being a caffeine high, Pancho?”
1) Thank the past – all the great stuff that my unconscious was chewing on during the night.
“May you, dear unconscious, find just the right way to bring these goodies across into my waking life!”
2) Experience the present. Feel your body in the present moment. Notice what you notice: what parts of your body are asking for attention?
Do a round or two or three of the “Contraction- expansion practice”: tighten your whole body, hold your breath, feel the painful contraction – then exhale, release, let your whole body go soft and free.
Do 20 seconds or more of “Dynamic Movement” – let your body move as it wants to move: big breathing, yawning and stretching, waving your arms in the air, etc.
2a) (maybe just for me, though you may have a variation of this). Think, “I’m not afraid of you, life!”
For me, that means I don’t have to be afraid of the contracted band of pain that confronts me ever morning – and gets worse when I start to move and then especially when I get out of bed. “I know, pain” (which I am playing with calling “Fred”, which feels less intimidating) “that you are not bigger than me – that I can always push through you to the other side.”
3) welcome and look forward to the future: What’s something in your day (maybe as soon as you get going or get to the other side of the pain) that could be nice or pleasant or maybe even wonderful: some music to listen to or dancing to do (me with these-days Amy Steinberg’s music, almost every morning), someone you are going to see that day, some place you like to go, a task you want to accomplish.
It’s really pretty easy – and, once you have done it a few times, you can either choose to really enjoy the three steps and spend a few minutes making a very gradual and experiential transition from bed>the big world, sleep>consciousness, limitation>no limits – or you can quickly touch these three bases in a minute or less:
thank the past
experience the present
look forward to the future
Be grateful that you have this practice – and that now you know a great way to start your day!
I haven’t up to this moment told the following to anybody – even my really good friend Tom, who would have made great sense to tell because it was with him that I so abruptly two weeks ago pulled out of plans to become roommates, along with his great 19-year-old son Ian.
I have truthfully been telling him and everybody that I shockingly and suddenly woke up at two in the morning last Wednesday – knowing I was getting an important life message, but not knowing what. And that, within moments, I realized that it had already been decided for me that I was not going to move in with Tom and Ian, but would be staying in the Battery Park Apartments subsidized, senior, beautiful historic hotel – which I have been saying for months that I hate.
For the last two weeks – since having this realization, in the middle of the night, that I’m not moving – I have been telling people a part of the truth: that, after scheduling our new Thursday “Gatherings”, one more weekly commitment downtown, I realized that most of my life is downtown and I would be crazy to move way out to Candler.
What I have not yet told anybody is that my very first thought on awakening was:
“You are about to undertake a sexual rebirth, for which you could possibly/maybe/who knows? have more than one partner.
“You are already really clear that you will never pursue or seduce or manipulate anybody into sex, but just let them come to you – which you feel really pretty confident that they will. These days you don’t pursue anybody for anything. You don’t ask women out for dates. You don’t do online dating. You aren’t ‘looking’.
“You may even give up your fabulously fun, most bold and over-the-top flirting, lest some watchers confuse that with seduction.” (That one is going to be tough. It is genuinely so much fun – and I, and I think usually the person I am teasing, both know that it is just for fun. We will have to wait and see the future of this practice.)
“You are entering a potentially fabulous, free new period in your sexual life. And now you are going to move from this sweet apartment, so-conveniently located right downtown – to a run-down old house with a very young and a kind of old roommate, with very little actual privacy (certainly not for loud passionate noises and running around the house giddy and naked) – way the hell out in the country. You are setting yourself up to be a monk, not a very old new-age stud!”
No, this has all been my own little secret that continually makes me giggle – until now sharing it with all y’all.
Yes, I am kind of totally starting over sexually – almost a virgin again.
I know, really solidly know, that I am going to be totally content if all that happens with any particular partner is to spend a lot of time looking deeply in their eyes, or lots of affection but no sexual action or even energy, or simply sensual or maybe sexual massages – or lots of practice building and holding a mutual intense sexual charge, without blowing that charge with an orgasm.
This tantric yoga practice is really just for the man. Women – you little stinkers – are blessed with the capacity to come as much as you want and still stay hot, whereas us guys, after coming, tend to lose all our charge and our capacity to resist the call of sleep.
I know that it will be crucially important to “surrender the outcome” – to be equally happy with whatever is meant to happen between me and any potential partner. And at the same time I am pretty sure that – unless I get hit by a bus in the very near future – I am about to have one helluva good time, and to rock some men’s and women’s worlds in the process.
Krista Tippett. hosts a weekly interview program on public radio called “On Being”, in which she hosts all kinds of spiritually or philosophically of psychologically “deep” people – people who the Asheville tribe who regularly listen to this show might describe as “very evolved souls”, or some shit like that. Ms. Tippett herself is obviously very “deep” or something like that – and has a very versatile, open mind, so that she is able to carry on intelligent, informed, interesting, provocative conversations with a very wide range of people.
If I were to host such an interview program today, I would definitely call it “On Being an Asshole” – and I would interview all kinds of just regular folks, who would share very interesting – maybe squeamishness-inducing – stories about times they behaved like a complete jerk, or worse yet, a schmuck. I would both identify and empathize with these people – and I would feel some relief and forgiveness for being a total asshole today. It’s really the first foray I have made into that territory since “waking up” five months ago.
The specifics of my assholiness today had to do with my dog Panchita aka Pancho. I totally adore her – I really love dogs, consider them a fabulous species, and have no doubt that she is the best dog in the whole world – except for your dog, of course. In fact, it seems to come with the territory of befriending your dog that you come to totally adore them. It really seems to me that if a person does not adore their dog – and vice-versa – that something is going very wrong, wrong with the person or the dog or their warped relationship.
But sometimes even a pretty good dog owner fucks up. I used to say of my parenting of my wonderful child Terry that I was really glad that no one could watch a videotape of every moment of my parenting – because there sure were some moments that I was not at all proud of.
I do pretty well with my little (20 pounds, way over her fighting weight) chihuahua Pancho – though she is mixed with something definitely bigger than a chihuahua. (It is a source of much speculation what that other dog breed might be – and I may someday break down and fork over the hundred bucks or whatever for a DNA test.)
I definitely do not do one of the ditziest things that the several really stupid dog owners in this building all seem to do: they walk their dogs right up to another dog, when the two dogs are already snarling and barking at each other. One of these women the other day – when I had just physically pushed her somewhat bigger dog away from my dog (she got outraged and said “Don’t you hit my dog!” – which I had obviously not done. I said to her, “I did not hit your dog – I pushed him rudely away from my dog, because you stupidly kept coming, even though I was yelling at you to keep your dog back.” To which she stupidly said, ‘Pancho and Arnold get along fine.” “Not today, they don’t!”
No, my jerkiness with my truly very sweet – but sometimes obstinate – dog today had to do with the even more classic example: she won’t come with you when you want her to, you lose your temper and drag the dog in the direction you want them to go. If little doggie brains and emotions are capable of feeling humiliated, I think this does that to them. It also definitely momentarily strains the bonds of trust and camaraderie that we develop so diligently over hours and days and weeks and months. Pancho is famous for her uber-deep eye contact – it was how she originally landed me, at the Rusty’s Rescue dog adoption day at the local Petsmart. But for the next half-hour (maybe a whole hour – it certainly felt that way), she did not make eye contact with me or me with her.
So what are the parameters of “waking up”? Is that one-time event supposed to suddenly make you perfect? It seems clear to me that it doesn’t prevent you from, in certain situations, behaving like an asshole. I guess someone might try to claim that this “bad behavior” rules out the possibility that you have become “enlightened”. (Are these two terms – “waking up” and “getting enlightened” – interchangeable? Do they point to the same thing? I don’t know the answer to this – I only know that “enlightened” feels lots more elegant and “high-consciousness” than I observe myself being. I like to say that I am walking the “low road to higher consciousness”.
There are all the ways I am so clearly dramatically better than I have ever experienced in my life since this did happen. This guy who has always been a little anxious is now one calm, cool customer – the opposite of manic so much of the time. I walk into a room slow, calm, clear, quiet – so present. My presence is palpable. It radiates from me that I’m a force to be reckoned with. When I do speak, it has a calm authority.
I no longer pursue people. I don’t ask women out on dates. When I did sign up for the Facebook dating site last night, on a lark, I loaded a bunch of pictures and didn’t bother to fill out the profile. “If they can’t get who I am from all those pictures – at least enough to decide if they want to initiate to me, then I’m not interested in them.” I know for sure that I will not shop the site or write anybody else. People seem to be coming towards me a lot these days.
At Earth Fare, during my breaks – or when I’m shopping for myself – I don’t pursue any of the many friends I see there. If they don’t see me, I don’t go after them. I don’t call people for lunch. At church or in other big social situations, I no longer “work the room”. I don’t run around connecting with my various friends – even people I am happy to see across the room. I stand in one spot and let people come to me – and they do.
I am in no way isolating myself: I do have lots of people coming to me. And I just don’t need a lot of interaction as I used to. I am essentially impervious to disapproval. I was thinking that exact thought as I walked from my car into work the other day. I didn’t specifically think, “Life, hit me with your best shot – send me a test.” But that is exactly what Life did. A woman who I have traditionally put on a pedestal – but also had a very warm and loving relationship with – came through my line and told me she was “sad” that I had been unkind to someone online. I said, “Wow, I feel really great about what I wrote. I think it was kinder than that person deserved to be called.” I did reel, just a bit, that this particular person was upset with me: was this really evidence that I had actually been way out of line?”
But it didn’t take more than a few moments for me to get to: “You know, she said she was ‘sad’ – but she wasn’t sad, she was disapproving.” It never had occurred to me that this very sweet, very high-consciousness woman could even have a disapproving side to her – duh! Not only does she, but I just got the brunt of it. So the whole thing reshuffled for me in a moment, and I knew that her upsetness was way more about her than about anything I had written. Life had sent me the test and I had passed. I do, in fact, seem to be impervious to criticism and disapproval.
Learning to walk the walk and find your voice is a gradual process – the Lord isn’t through with me yet.
I do sometimes call a spade a bloody fucking shovel. I am clearly experimenting with the whole range of my power/assertiveness/even aggression. I think aggression gets a bad rap. When one of the senior students in my old aikido martial arts school was roughing up the newer students, the sensei or teacher would ask that offender out into the middle of the mat to “demonstrate a technique” – and then proceed to both humiliate them and to put a definite physical hurt on them. They probably would be sore for a week. I call that aggression – he intentionally beat them up – and, in a martial arts setting, it was responsible aggression that was a teaching experience for both the offender and really everyone who was there.
I still do have one Achilles heel that clearly isn’t all healed yet. I have taken a huge step towards throwing off the label of mentally ill. But after 30 years of deeply believing that story, I still am vulnerable to it. Some of the mental health people – not all, not my therapist – are scared about my changes, my high energy, the speed with which I am sorting things out, healing from things, and walking away from destructive situations. While I’m telling people to not give me the BS that one has to be kind all the time, much of the time I am quite kind, warm, supportive – loving, really. But some people who are steeped in the mental illness model believe that you can’t be this clear, this productive, this non-stop happy for five months if you are in a normal state of mind. I must be manic.
Three times in the last five months – each of those instances immediately after some mental health person had gone out of their way to tell me that I am not actually in a really great, productive place – but that actually I am biochemically toxified and what I am calling “unreasonable happiness” is actually an upsurge in pathology.
In each of those situations, in the immediate situation I put up an absolutely clear Brene Brown-style boundary
and the perpetrator did not touch me – and I thought I walked away completely intact. But each time, by the next morning I had been totally undermined. In each case, I slept longer than I usually do – which allows the pain body to take over even more – and makes it very difficult and painful to get out of bed, insert myself back in the body, and get going.
But having stared in the eye the possibility that I might shrink away from life, shrink back under the covers, and genuinely get depressed – maybe for days – I have in each of those cases found the heart to push into the pain of moving around, going back into that body where the pain resides, and get moving.
One day I was able to do it by going directly to the shower – which tends for me, in that very warm stream, to be a place of solace and even a little pleasure and amazingly often a place of surging inspiration. I tend to take very long showers – what often finally drives me out is a thought like “I gotta go get all of these great thoughts written down. I immediately list them all in bullet-form in a recurring daily entry in my calendar that I have titled “From the world of Spirit” – which had until recently been titled simply “From the shower”.
I have always had especially strong energy cycles – more, I think, than most people. It was my tremendous misfortune, 30 years ago, that the really very kindly and mostly helpful male psychologist psychotherapist I was seeing – convinced me that the presence of these big swings was a sign of a biochemical condition that could be treated by psychotropic drugs.
And so I was delivered into the hands of the psychiatric establishment. They taught me to view these two states as symptoms of psychopathology and to give them the names of “mania” and “depression” – which in our society definitely refer to psychiatric conditions. Years later, I tried valiantly to push back against this brainwashing by substituting the purely descriptive terms “expansion” and “contraction” – which have no psychiatric loading. In many ways, this effort failed – because I never really got myself out from under the other toxic labels. These days – when I am ferociously committed to resisting those depressing psychiatric words – the terms expanded and contracted are still very useful to me.
Don’t call me “mentally ill”. Just call me an asshole – that won’t fuck me up for days.
Thank you so much for giving me “Confidence” yesterday – when I really needed it! (Must Be the Moon album on Pandora)
Two messages ago, I told you how that wonderful song helped me fight back from being capsized by an attack by a highly esteemed “light-chaser” friend. Well, it just seems that the clearer and stronger I get, the more challenging are the tests that life is sending me. And, thanks to my new musical friend – who gives me power amulets like “Shine” and “Confidence” – I’m getting through them in flying colors. I don’t know what my morning would have been like yesterday without being armed with “Confidence” – but that song was definitely the light saber that I used to fight off two very difficult attacks.
Just a few minutes after arriving at work yesterday for my 8-4 shift, I was in the staff break room putting on my team apron. The same music plays overhead in that room as in the bigger store, but you can hear it a lot better in that smaller space. And, just before I left that room, I realized that the song that was playing was your “Exactly”! I had never heard it before seeing you do it live on Friday night, but then had heard it on Pandora several times over the weekend – and had been dancing wildly to it just about three hours earlier!
I was so excited about this that I ran out to tell a cashier friend, Suzie, before the song finished.
“Suzie, Suzie, listen to this song! This is Amy Steinberg – our new minister who I saw at the Isis Friday night!”
Suzie: “I can’t hear anything.“
And it really was very hard to hear the music from where we were standing by the cash registers. I was able to follow it, because it was so in my head – and because I was just hearing it clearly back in the break room.
“Yeah, it’s Amy – this is her biggest song, ‘Exactly’. I knew that this song had made it big – but here it is, right here at work, when her music has totally dominated my weekend!”
Suddenly Suzie went from not hearing the music at all to being totally positive that what she was hearing was totally different from what I was hearing. “That’s Michael McDonald.”
“No! No! It’s Amy Steinberg – ‘Exactly’. I was dancing to that song three hours ago.”
Suzie, with more forcefulness: “No, that’s Michael McDonald.”
“No – it’s the same music out here as back in the break room, right? It’s hard to hear it clearly out here.” I ran 10 yards to stand directly under the speaker. “Yeah, yeah – it’s definitely Amy. I know this song really well.”
“There is no question that that is definitely Michael McDonald.”
“What?! Is there another speaker out here somewhere? The speaker I was just standing under is playing Amy Steinberg.”
It was so shocking and disturbing: it was the classic case of looking at the same white object and having the person next to you claim that it is black. And it was kind of horrifying that my friend, who had so little real information (a moment before she “couldn’t hear anything“) could become so arrogant and defensive and unwilling to consider any other way to perceive things. “What is making her do that?”
So not only had she very directly challenged and invalidated my reality – but she had taken my “miracle moment”, my thrill at hearing my beloved Amy on our Earth Fare stereo – right after coming back to work from a weekend that was so dominated by your music – and said that I was not having a miracle at all, that I wasn’t even hearing your song.
I gave up trying to reach her and quickly walked to the cafe to get coffee (free for staff). I was really supposed to be at my cash register by then, but there was no action yet at the Front End – and I needed to walk this off. And half-way to the cafe, I heard you singing, “People will try to tear you down…”
The miracle state that I had lived in all weekend – and which had followed me to work – was very directly challenged and even kind of attacked. Your song helped me to find my strength – and, yes, confidence.
Confidence by Amy Steinberg (from the album Must Be the Moon)
(To Amy Steinberg, our new Jubilee minister, 11/26)
I am going to make it. I have been dancing to your “Get up” and “Infinite Soul Superhero” for about a half-hour – crying intensely on and off. I’m stronger, looser – the pain no longer has me in its vice grip. I could dance much longer and I know it would help, but now I am being called to write. And the most powerful thing I can write is this: My “Gift” for the Jubilee Sunday services on 12/15
4 minutes – two minutes of talking (I have timed it) and two minutes of all of us dancing to “Get up” (not the whole song).
A Gift of Story: “Get up” by Majo (song by Amy Steinberg)
This last year has been very emotionally difficult for me – I was hospitalized on psych wards twice last Spring for coming very close to killing myself.
At 3 a.m. on Monday June 26, I “woke up”. I committed to living 100% from a place of integrity, telling all the truth and letting nobody mess with me.
The story of that Monday is here. The whole story is all through this blog. I have completely rejected the mental illness label and know that all along I was having a spiritual crisis – that the true self was trying to push through the conditioned social persona, the ego. I have reclaimed with a vengeance my personal power and the power of my sexuality – including thatI recently came out as bisexual.
I have been non-stop happy for six months and am totally impervious to disapproval from others. I am more loving than ever and simultaneously a total badass.
But the pull of the old psychiatric story that I have “bipolar disorder” – which I’ve been told will last forever and means I will have to take heavy-duty drugs forever – is still very strong. Four times in the last six months, some mental health professional has said to me some version of: “This happiness is really all mania, because we have been letting you reduce your meds. Any day now, you are going to get very depressed – and you will realize that all this ‘waking up’ stuff has been an illusion and you will be very humiliated. You need to increase your medication again immediately.”
In each case of being told this horrible shit – in the name of “helping” me – I have had the presence of mind to say some version of “You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I’m great. Everybody else knows I’m fine – my psychotherapist, my best friends, the counselor in my seniors building, my minister. You are trying to keep me believing a story that I very unfortunately fell into believing – because I was so desperate for relief from my pain – for 30 years. I have woken up from that story now. Reducing my meds has not made me manic – it has allowed me to be a full human being again. I’m going to continue to reduce them whether you help me with it or not.”
Pretty great – huh? Very exciting stuff. But in each of these four cases, their destructive hypnotic suggestions actually worked. Overnight the 30-year destructive story came out of my unconscious and took over again. I have been unable in the morning to push through the undiagnosed chronic pain that I have learned I can push past and get on with my day. Instead, I have retreated into the bed and said, “Come take me, depression. I knew you would come back for me. I’m yours.” I always eventually pushed through the pain, got going – and had a great day.
This last time was the hardest to get up. Finally I heard in my head Amy’s song “Get up”, to which I have been dancing non-stop lately. I yelled and grunted and cried my way into the living room and I danced – and I was back!
Today, I want to ask you all to dance this song with me. Hear the words of fighting back against the voices that say, “Who the hell are you? You can’t do that.” Look at each other and say, “I know you can do it.” or “I know I can do it”.
This is my big shot – this is what I need from my Jubilee peeps. Let’s dance.
Steve (I don’t know the real name of this asshole and have no interest in knowing it) manages the parking lot for the “Basilica of St.Lawrence” Catholic Church behind our seniors apartment building. The Basilica is a genuine landmark and a very beautiful structure.
Steve is a true asshole. He totally fits the definition of “asshole”:
Online Dictionary: ass·hole
VULGAR SLANG•NORTH AMERICAN
a person’s anus.
a stupid, irritating, or contemptible person.
Majo. An asshole:
Thinks they are a much bigger shit than they actually are.
Loves to throw their weight around.
Identifies themself with a great and/or powerful organization, which they think has knighted them with great power and dignity – when actually they are a little peon who has a very limited purview.
He treats (at least some) other people like shit. He’s an insecure, tiny little man who struts around his kingdom like he is, in fact, a king. He uses his cane like a sword, never using it to steady his walking, but swinging it around like a weapon – his sword or something else fucked up like that.He loves to give the “little people” orders – as if he has been knighted and empowered to shout orders like this. He has a very clear demarcation as to who is in and who is out: members of his parish – who are welcome in his domain: intruders – especially the detestable old people in the “home” across the street – are definitely “outsiders”, savages to be repelled. I doubt that any of this is in his job description.
Although he would certainly deny this, he is constantly begging for some genuinely bad motherfucker to come along and remind him of the limits of his power, put him in his place – and, even if he never develops any real insight into or regrets for the nasty error of his ways – to cause him to maybe feel a little stress, a little constriction when he starts to behave like an asshole. The psychologists call this “aversive conditioning”. If the rat gets a little shock when he approaches cheese, he loses his interest in cheese.
One potentially positive function of this kind of asshole is to act as a practice field for a bad motherfucker in training – for said motherfucker to practice on the little prick, to hone his aggressive skills, which then will be available for righting wrongs, protecting the weak, etc. By unintentionally surrendering himself to some turning of the tables, by receiving rather than dispensing abuse, he may be blessed with some lightening of his miserable karma – so that if he by chance never learns his lesson in this life, he may come back as a nicer person next time.
I am that developing bad motherfucker who is using this miserable bastard to help me develop my aggression skills – how to more cleverly and elegantly slice the perpetrator apart, to inflict no unnecessary long-term damage, and to have fun in the process and create merriment for onlookers, especially if they are members of the outgroup that the little dictator likes to oppress.
My brother and sister seniors in our building – at least those who have also vented to me about the humiliations they have experienced at Steve’s hands – will get real fun out of my stories of taking him down, will relax and let go of some stress, will vicariously (as if they had been there) feel pride in themselves and may walk a little taller.
Diana – who similarly hates Steve for how badly he has treated her when she dares to walk through his domain – will laugh very heartily at my stories of totally dominating Steve, of eating him for lunch, and even feel a little happy. She will remember the stories, especially when she has to be near Steve or even dares to once again walk through his kingdom.
Story 1. Our building parking lot is out beyond Steve’s domain.
It is a long ways around either side as we walk to our cars and most of us do dare to cross through Steve’s domain. When he is there – usually because there is a Mass or some other function at the church – we can see him out strutting around and we tighten up a little just at the sight of him. We know that he will never give us the warm greetings he gives to his parishioners, will never treat us well – will only give us eye contact when he grabs hold of any context to give us shit – like if we cross too close to the driveway.
When we pull up to the back of our building to drop off groceries or something, it is usually pretty hairy to back out – what with cars and pedestrians walking by. There is a ramp down from our alley to Steve’s lot, but we are definitely not allowed to pull forward into that lot – and the ramp is usually blocked with a rope tied across the top of it. But this particular day the rope was down and I was really happy to not have to back out, but to just be able to drive out through Steve’s lot.
Steve stopped me when I came by his stupid little house.
“What are you doing here?”
“Driving through your lot to the street.” (Notice the specific and intentional and very disciplined leaving out of “you stupid motherfucker”.)
“Don’t ever drive through here again.”
I did not swear, and actually spoke in a clear, calm, even understated tone that belied how totally I was dissing him. “You know, I’m not aware of any inclination to do what you say.”
Uttering that line was a beautiful moment, a pure joy. I had totally flummoxed him. He obviously was shocked at my understated lack of respect and he shut the fuck up – which was my clear purpose in saying what I said. “I’m learning the art of the least necessary violence. I didn’t need to say ‘What are you going to do about it, motherfucker?’ which I actually had said a couple of weeks earlier to some country asshole who thought he could push me around because my car door tapped his pickup truck. That was the most clearly I have ever threatened another man, but felt really risk-free because I was absolutely sure with the most threatening tone of voice I could totally back this asshole down. He fled to the cab of his truck, saying.
“I’m going to call the cops.”
“Because I said a bad word? I don’t think they come out for that.”
It had all been great fun: a wonderful learning experience – just to know that I actually have it in me to menace another man and back him down, when the situation really calls for that – and I may at some point be confronted by a situation that is much more serious than this one, and I am what stands between the perpetrator and the people he wants to harm.
Story 2. This afternoon my dog Panchita and I were walking from our parking spot across the street, back to our building.
I was hauling probably too many bags of heavy groceries, because I have come to really detest the little ritual of driving around the back of the building to the back entrance, dropping your groceries in a buggy inside the building – then backing out of the alley to the street (some anxious part of me really believes that someday I will flatten a pedestrian). Managing the sometimes very stubborn, sometimes errant dog is especially difficult when my hands are so full. So I definitely wanted to take the most direct path from my car to the building. The most direct path goes directly up Steve’s driveway. I was too tired and was carrying too much shit to veer to either side. And I don’t give a shit about Steve: if I have to tell him to go fuck himself, I will enjoy doing so.
“Don’t ever walk up this driveway.”
I think Panchita recognized Steve’s hostile tone and – surprise! – doesn’t have much use for him in general. She barked at him right on cue.
I never turned to look at Steve, just continued to walk straight ahead and warned him, in a fairly neutral tone,
“She’ll bite you.”
“I might bite you.”
I may have waited until I was out of earshot to start laughing – but maybe I actually didn’t wait that long. I felt totally happy and content.