I first heard Bono & U2 sing their song With Or Without You in the late 80s, as a student. It spoke to me deeply at the time, since much of what I was experiencing in a close relationship concerned seeing the “stone set in your eyes“; and that unquenchable hankering & uneasiness, “You give it all but I want more, And I’m waiting for you“. Most of all, the feeling that “I can’t live With or without you”. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some time or other. Most peculiar of all, it felt like I was being induced with some magical drug at the time; much as in Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where Puck’s mistaken use of the potion from a flower, inducing a powerful lust for the first person seen upon awakening, creates havoc among the two young, eloping couples arranging to meet in the forest. And when you finally awaken from that particular dream, the ‘drug’ having worn off, you just don’t understand for a moment what possessed you… to give your life away so completely, to create such an unhappy existence for yourself, living entirely through the imagined other.
My hands are tied
My body bruised, she’s got me with
Nothing to win and
Nothing left to lose
And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away…
And then there’s the other extreme. The ascetic, the hermit, the monk or nun in their cell, the loner or celibate… Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody puts it well:
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
A number of years ago, after I had begun certain spiritual awakening practices, it didn’t take me long to hit my first psycho-spiritual brick wall (I wanted to write psychotically-spiritual here…ha!). I might know a bit more about myself, I realised, but it wasn’t helping me get any further on in my own life. I felt like I was in a rut, or to be more precise, stuck in a cycle. So I did something I’d never done before: I paid somebody for a psychic reading. The late middle-aged man sat me down and proceeded, with great haste, to download a huge amount of facts & details. At the time, I took them all to heart: I was looking for answers. And because I felt the desperate need for them, I went elsewhere in search of them. I gave myself away.. Yet again.
With the gift of hindsight, this action – with its many repercussions & ensuing difficulties (because I actually took on the advice) – revealed another level in my personal awareness & experience of how my relationship with self affected my relationship with others. Part of the advice from the medium involved pursuing a vision quest. I had undertaken some informal ones previously, so it wasn’t a big deal; but what actually ensued in my life at that stage was something akin to a vision quest whilst still present & existing in the world around me. It was literally as if I was existing in parallel universes. The one, mundane reality & life as usual; the other, a magical world of spirits, guides, astral travel, other realms of existence far beyond our own. I felt split and torn – and let’s be honest, where would you rather be: a 9 – 5 job, or la-la-land? Was I being delusional, a split personality – was I mentally ill?
Anyone reading this and nodding knowingly at this point will have experienced one of those thresholds in the spiritual journey of human beings: the revelation of multiple existences, realities & dimensions. If you can re-adjust to it, while not going completely loopy, and come back down to earth again, then you’re doing really well! That’s all I can say, and I mean it most sincerely. Certainly a whole lot better than many people immersed in this particular cycle, living in New Age communities. For those encountering this stage – myself included – it’s all about the inner journey of self. How to define Self, when it becomes increasingly apparent that the self we’ve gotten used to isn’t just a diddy being in a carbon-based encasing.
“In awakening, what’s revealed to us is that we are not a thing, nor a person, nor even an entity. What we are is that which manifests as all things, as all experiences, as all personalities. We are that which dreams the whole world into existence. Spiritual awakening reveals that that which is unspeakable and unexplainable is actually what we are.”Adyashanti
And the great temptation is to run off somewhere – escape, retreat, cover one’s head in a shawl, chant AUMs all day long… Certainly, this has its place; but the fact is, at that stage in my life I could no longer do this – and I didn’t want to any more, either. I felt no more “Give yourself away” was necessary. I no longer felt the calling of the Indian guru high in the Himalayas, or the Shaman in the Amazonian rain forest. I just wanted to get to the bottom (if that’s ever possible) of being me; and like the character of the same name in Shakespeare’s play, I felt a bit like an ass while doing so. Part of the issue (as with the picture of the birch forest above) is being able to see the wood for the trees. There were so many distractions, dead-end leads, I felt like a fool most of the time. No one thought I was being a fool though.. just likeable-if-eccentric, or similar. I would have been a fool to give up my life to those distractions certainly, since they all proved themselves to be irrelevant enticements – sweetmeats – on the journey.
On the whole, I feel like I made it through; maybe this was simply a first stage, and the rest is ongoing. Yet it all feels good. And the whole reason it feels good is because I remained connected to those relationships around me, notably the key relationships within my own family. The loving relationships which acted as a constant anchor – that I’m not only needed here, but am loved & accepted without condition, with all my many idiosyncrasies & unique personality traits (yes, that’s putting it politely!). This theme will be continued in my next blog on the subject. For now, I leave you with the words of a wise one who sums up the whole experience beautifully:
“So, to understand the innumerable problems that each one of us has, is it not essential that there be self-knowledge? And that is one of the most difficult things, self-awareness – which does not mean an isolation, a withdrawal. Obviously, to know oneself is essential; but to know oneself does not imply a withdrawal from relationship. And it would be a mistake, surely, to think that one can know oneself significantly, completely, fully, through isolation, through exclusion, or by going to some psychologist, or to some priest; or that one can learn self-knowledge through a book. Self-knowledge is obviously a process, not an end in itself; and to know oneself, one must be aware of oneself in action, which is relationship. You discover yourself, not in isolation, not in withdrawal, but in relationship, in relationship to society, to your wife, your husband, your brother, to man; but to discover how you react, what our responses are, requires an extraordinary alertness of mind, a keenness of perception.”