Please forgive the length, but I have never been one for brevity....
If anyone chooses to read it in part or in whole, I thank you in advance. Welcome to the story of my meat-bag so far....
My ‘spiritual’ journey, started as a young teenager, reading books such as “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsh. I was psychologically and emotionally sidelined by these books, becoming fascinated with the deeper concepts and truths that appeared to be held within. I continued a normal teenage exploration of life, but privately subscribed to a deeper search for truth and relationship to the numinous. It almost invaded my mind and I looked for these truths everywhere.
Unfortunately, somewhere around 17 years of age, I remember becoming much more introverted, anxious and depressed than I had been previously, perhaps as a result of smoking too much cannabis, as I went through a period where I smoked multiple times daily, every day. I soon discovered CBT and self-help, that I feel allowed me to progress past a definite depressive period. In terms of mental health, the years that followed were predominated by a rapidly cycling mood, alternating between an almost hypomanic confidence, especially after meditating, and periods of dysthymia. I remained mostly functional, at least to all observers, although I struggled greatly with affect regulation, self-concept, anxiety...but most of all, a pernicious and pervasive sense of self-doubt, that was never far from my consciousness.
By university, I was looking for more. I got lost down rabbit holes of New Age spirituality; David Icke, Eckhart Tolle, internet ‘energy groups’, online reiki ‘attunements’, conspiracy theories...the list goes on. It ended, and began again, with a group called “Higher Balance Institute”. I was led there on one of my long internet searches, clicking from one link to the next in a kind of compulsive madness, or addiction to information. It all changed with the discovery of this institute, promising to be one of the last remaining authentic spiritual ‘schools’ on the planet. It taught meditation, the development of psychic sensory, higher consciousness and promised intense experiences. The meditation techniques resemble what I now understand to be almost tantric yogas in kind; I meditated twice daily on chakras, gaining energy or ‘prana’ and developing what they called ‘non-thought’, or clearness of mind.
Rather than developing a lack of thinking, it encouraged developing a higher awareness. My experiences developed rapidly and I became progressively dedicated to my spiritual path, even teaching others whilst I was still at university. I was known as something of a spiritual maverick, an odd-ball perhaps, but grounded enough to associate with my peers through all the normal rituals of a university education. I experienced deep ‘awakenings’ and profound meditations, sometimes walking around in alternate states of consciousness for hours at a time, reflecting on the nature of existence and the nature of my own mind. I developed considerable strength of mindfulness, but my cycling moods were always around the corner.
I attended a number of meditation/informational ‘retreats’, meeting with the master of this school on a number of occasions in a one-on-one context. The third retreat was held in Hawaii in 2009, named “Across the Universe”. I had a profound vacation for sure, but at this point my experiences very much took a turn for the worse. The retreat was a week long and by the third day things were really beginning to heat up from an experiential point of view. I was walking around in a shifted state of consciousness continually, without the periodic grounding in more human relational frames that I had been accustomed to.
Wild ‘kundalini’ type energies rocked through my psychological, emotional and physical systems, expanding my mind and stressing my physical body. I felt like I was ‘downloading’ information from the cosmos, directly in tune with a super-conscious force of energy, guiding and flowing through all things. Of course, these feelings directly resembled the ideas of my then teacher, things we were instructed to try and find, but the intensity was overwhelming. I remember feeling time and space move in ways very alien to our three dimensional training and vastly complex ideas flowed through my understanding with ease.
I was walking around the retreat, talking to others and relaying to them some of this information, at which they were frequently in awe. On the final day, there was a definite shift. Everyone in the retreat was meditating in preparation for the final lecture, when a new energy came over me. The previous flares of knowledge calmed to an inner silence, with my visual perception taking on a luminous quality. Everything glowed intensely, as if I could see, directly, that it was made completely of light. That all matter is really this multi-dimensional stream of information, shimmering down from higher, non-physical dimensions. Everything was infinitely connected to everything else, and it felt like I just understood. Before I could formulate a question in my mind, it was as if I knew the answer. I felt like I radiated outwards like a sun, with flowers growing in the ground, following my steps (metaphorically). Everything I looked at was a reflection of the divine, including my own actions, now that I felt I was truly listening to this cosmic force.
Reality seemed to bend to my will, and I remember thinking I was controlling large expanses of energy, including the weather etc. At one point, I remember leaning down to a small flower, willing it to grow, and seeing it grow before me a number of inches. I have no idea as to the physical reality of this act, although I suspect a heightened state of self-suggestion and perceptual disturbance. There were no gross visual hallucinations that I really remember, but all senses were greatly magnified. The liberation did not last more than half a day or so, if I remember correctly, which I am pretty sure I don’t.
There was an interpersonal issue with my teacher, who apparently misunderstood some of my previous actions on the retreat, involving some of my peers. I was very confused, as I found it hard to think in a ‘normal way’, or relate to my normal identities, with my attempts to do so ending in a hellish dovetailing of human and dimensional/cosmic thought. These began to bleed over into one another; I can only imagine that they magnified my inner demons and complexes, which started to roar into a renewed existence, fuelled by this high state that I was in. Metaphorically, it was as if the light of my consciousness magnified and intensified the shadows on the wall. I began to flee, psychologically and emotionally speaking, in attempt to run from myself. Conversations about Krishna and Kali intensified these inner fears and before long I was in complete crisis internally. There were only a few that really knew of the extent of these reverberations, a fact that is somewhat ironic considering this was supposed to be a camp full of highly psychic individuals.
Every event, every interaction, was overwhelmingly symbolic; it was as if reality itself, at every turn, was teaching me something about my own psychology, lessons that had to be learned. These lessons were coming directly from the universe and it was up to me to not only decipher them, but to control them. If my mind became too anxious, my reality became more terrifying. If I surrendered, it became benevolent. With the retreat over, people began to dissipate, leaving me with only a few others. It must have took me hours to orientate myself to leaving, collecting my things in confusion and horror, constantly running away from the growing shadows in my mind. Friends gave me a lift to the airport. At the terminal, I became convinced that the ‘darkside’ of this cosmic energy was going to trap me if I could not control my mind. As my mind was connected to all things, on a psychic or energetic level, again my world would oscillate between a safe or dangerous place. It felt very much that I was in a cosmic game, weaving between different layers of truth, whether they be the more mundane appearance of human life, or more subtle interactions of energy, and ultimately the force/darkside, at others. I was having to constantly ‘stealth’ my mind, so that I wouldn’t be found out too much. As I felt it slipping, I would feel the awareness of other people on me. I don’t know if you have seen the movie ‘Inception’, but it was very much like trying to avoid the subconscious of the dreamers mind. After getting through security, highly concerned they would find a gun in my bag (some kind of baggage swap etc), I couldn’t read my tickets, as they were just a jumble of letters and numbers, so my friends helped me board.
On the plane, obviously things did not improve and each flight became a wrestle between my life and death instincts, if I can put them that way, trying to not allow the plane to crash. I could feel the plane all around me, the nuts and bolts, the engines etc. As you can imagine, this was terrifying. I have no idea how I navigated each domestic airport, as there were two before the final jump to the UK. It was all part of the game - it would take me a long time to relate all of the narratives contained within it. I hope the gestalt I have already given is enough. I became highly confused on the flights themselves, losing my seat multiple times, as I eluded the grasp of the FBI/Mi5. I found it incredibly hard to pay attention to anything, and I am fairly sure that multiple in flight movies, that I watched without sound, became encoded into my nightmare. I was the possessor of an intergalactic decoding device that showed me multiple meanings in everything around me. A dimensional criminal, on the run from the dimensional law. By the end of the final flight, as we approached Heathrow, lightning did actually strike the plane (was later validated), which of course signalled the end for me. I thought the plane was genuinely flying towards the ground, convinced that I would kill myself and everyone in it. The guilt and pain was dissociating - I cried gently to myself, holding an ice-cube, a metaphorical dagger, trying to sacrifice myself to God to save the plane. I thought I was going to hell, and saw how I would spend an eternity getting back out. I genuinely thought I had an evil soul, that I was a devil incarnate, that I would pay for trying to become God, or whatever I thought it was that I had done. As we escaped the storm turbulence, I thought the plane had been saved. As we approached the airport, I broke down, no longer able to tolerate the identity confusion; at one point, I thought I was actually Ricky Hatton, the boxer, that our identities had been somehow switched in this inter-dimensional game I had entered, and that I would spend the rest of my life suffering unspeakable toil in jail. I had vivid visions of being paraded through the airport in deep shame and humiliation. I was wheelchaired off the plane, no longer able to walk.
By this time, I must have been severely sleep deprived and dehydrated. My Dad, who came to find me, said I look severely gaunt and perished. My anxieties grounded a little on seeing my father, although he soon became the subject of my unleashed insecurities. I remember experiencing all these memories that he wasn’t my real father, that I had seen my mother copulating with my uncle as a child. I think, in truth, these were confusions from the movies I had ‘seen’ on the flight, as the idea is completely preposterous, knowing the dynamics of my family as I do. It may have been some internalised childhood trauma, manifesting in another way. I am sure I experienced many traumas in my youth, as I have always felt different from others, despite an apparently healthy upbringing. I was checked out by psychologists, but by that point I was somehow able to orientate myself in date/time. I probably narrowly avoided a section, but returned home with my Dad. The week that followed consisted of child regressions, acute hypochondrias, terrifying persecutory nightmares (often of being dragged down to hell by malevolent beings) and fears of impending doom. I experienced frequent panic attacks, but with the help of diazepam, I gradually began to re-orient. I was struggling to decompress all my post-retreat experiences, and nearly left the country for America (to be closer to my teacher), at one point. Over the course of months, I began to leave my spirituality. I began to consider an acute stress psychosis, or possibly mania. I weighed up the possibility of biological brain dysfunction, against those of genuine spiritual crisis. I had begun my career in psychology as an assistant clinical psychologist and I think, by osmosis of that environment, I began to view my experiences with increasing scepticism. I read a little material on critical thinking, neuroscience.... Fast forward 3 years. I’m working in primary mental health care, within the “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies” services, as a ‘psychological well-being practitioner’. I have aspirations for clinical psychology, but to varying degrees since Hawaii, have been haunted with echoes of the transcendent. I am looking to understand my experiences, and intergrate them into a path lived now. I don’t know what form that will take, but I am greatly attracted to the mindfulness-based paradigm rising within the psychological mainstream