Separation and loneliness is a huge issue right now. Important enough to interrupt the tech with a post about spirituality. Along with lots of discussion about meditation, in particular mindfulness, one sees articles about the outer darkness. The deep loneliness and dissatisfaction that so very many people deal with on a daily basis. It’s a horrible burden and people feel very isolated in dealing with it. Well, you’re not alone.
There’s a story going around that someone told the Dalai Lama that people in the West are filled with self-loathing and he was shocked. He could not comprehend that. The Maharishi taught that where ever the mind goes, it always goes toward greater happiness. But for many Westerners who start meditating, that is not what they experience.
It’s really important to remember that the West has imported a lot of ideas from other cultures, ethnicities and eras. Our own culture is not set up well to support spirituality. There is a cartesian division between the religious gatekeeping of the church, and science which is supposed to deal with the purely physical domain. If you believe what Murdoch publishes, your options are either orthodox Western religion or orthodox Western Atheism or “woo” which is proscribed. It’s no accident that the Atheists promoted most in the media are those who object to the gatekeeping of religion but not the values of domination and privilege that go with the Western social construct.
We are encouraged to repress our emotions. Feelings are considered much less important than rational thought. We are pressured to build a bridge and get over it. People who fail to adequately repress feelings of sadness, guilt or loneliness are portrayed as losers or playing the victim. That’s not what playing the victim means, btw. This, together with the glitch in Western mythology, leave a lot of people feeling awful and having a lot of trouble overcoming that.
When reading about things like spiritual growth and development I often come across the term ascendance. People talk about “raising their frequency” or “raising your vibration.” After having grown up being told that humans were fallen, that creation was fallen and that when we died we go to heaven if we’re good, the impression in my mind was one of looking up. Heaven was somewhere outside me and creation. We were separate, less than, diminished, lower.
Not only in religious circles but in the wider culture there is a lot of play on that feeling of separation. We are exposed to advertising that permeates every aspect of our lives. The message in images that try to sell you something is that you need this thing in order to be acceptable. In order to be okay. To be part of an in crowd. To be fuckable. To belong. Those are some pretty heavy emotional buttons to push and they build on the idea that you alone are insufficient or somehow unworthy. The subconscious feeling of separation and insecurity rapidly builds in such an environment and needs frequent attention to keep a handle on.
Like the media hype about terrorism and lazy bludgers. Divide and conquer. You are taught to feel resentment toward others who are falsely and maliciously portrayed as getting an undeserved easy ride. At the same time odds are that you belong to a group who has been demonised in the press, because there’s simply so many of them. So there’s that expectation of stigma along with the resentment. This does not make for a cohesive society. It lowers your seratonin levels and raises adrenaline and cortisol. This means your basic biology is off kilter as well, leaving you feeling even more unhappy and isolated. Your biochemical homeostasis is disrupted by the button pushing of media and advertising.
These feelings are expected to be repressed. You’re not supposed to acknowledge that the media is driving everyone crazy. You get out of bed every morning and get the kids ready for school, go off to work and pretend everything’s normal. You can’t sleep, feel nervous, have indigestion or trouble concentrating and still are expected to pretend it’s all normal.
That is not normal. Those are symptoms of severe stress. When you start to try to meditate, you take your conscious mind off the hook a bit. The distractions you’ve had in place to suppress all that are temporarily off line. Your subconscious immediately takes the opportunity of reacquainting you with everything you’ve been repressing, because you have to deal with it to fix the imbalances. A good meditation teacher will prepare you for this and support you through this phase.
Still mind and particularly mindfulness meditation can be really confronting in this manner. A lot of people who would like to spend more time meditating find themselves putting it off, because it means confronting those subconscious needs and feelings. Our culture gives us no scope to understand or process this. In many cases it’s only when we see a therapist that we start to get a handle on what’s happening to us. In the case of trauma or abuse survivors it’s best to go through a therapist first. Then your practise occurs in the context of a supported journey of self discovery and liberation, which is important if you’re going to avoid spending the rest of your life in the valley of the shadow of death.
There are many other types of meditation, though.
My experience was that when I started doing the unbounded mind meditation I found myself sinking in rather than reaching out, since consciousness arises out of all the physical systems that the brain and body are made up of. All those atoms are the same type of matter that is created in the hearts of stars. There’s no coelestial aether or crystal rings or perfect, pure heavenly matter. It’s all matter. In our Newtonian space-time dimensions, atoms are atoms. After shifting this perception it was suddenly much easier for me to feel connected while meditating. When I took my focus off the alpha wave state and relaxed inward, I did indeed find the river of cosmic consciousness and experience it as loving and accepting. It took some more work on the anxiety and other symptoms, but this is now my experience of meditation.
For the best part of three decades I was never more than a flat tyre from suicidal ideation. That’s a really shitty place to be. I don’t recommend it. Sure you can work on your inner self to achieve spirituality and peace, but keep in mind that the studies of neuro-plasticity had their origin in stroke therapy. This is a gentle, gradual process that takes place according to the needs of your own path and your own experiences. It grows according to your own internal energy levels and awareness, not on anyone else’s timetables or because of demands or expectations. Certainly not according to those of the social construct. The first thing you have to do is be honest with yourself. Admit that it hurts. You have to respect the pain, in your own life and in others’. It’s real and it has real causes that can be addressed.
It might help to give yourself a glimpse of the point you’re trying to reach. Or anything other than the endless, soul sucking murk of depression. For that you do sometimes need something external. There’s a trick called standing in awe of the Universe. Prof Brian Cox does this brilliantly and he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. I love that. What you do is look at a lovely view or starry night sky. Look at the trees, rivers, valleys and mountains. The sky, the stars, the galaxies. Consider that in the hearts of those stars all the atoms are formed. That all of this surrounding us is a matrix of interactive life forms and physical systems.
Your body is made up of the same sort of atoms. You are part of this planet. This Cosmos. There’s no “holy” and “corrupt.” It’s all the same matter, all the same energy. The tiny electrical currents and chemical interactions in your brain and nerves that give rise to your personality are the same electricity and chemistry that operates everywhere else. What you experience as “I,” your conscious self, arises from that activity. The archetypes that you encounter in your subconscious are projections of meaningful symbols in your experience and that of humanity and our stories. Our myths. Depicting God as being somehow outside of creation is a glitch in Western mythology that arose from the incorporation of Imperial Roman politics in Christendom at the Nicean council in 326 CE. Whatever you experience “God” as, be it an anthromorphised personality or a physical evolutionary force or something like the electromagnetic field, if it’s here in this cosmos, it’s in the same Newtonian space as we are.
This gives you permission to start considering the social construct as just a construct. All the messages, money and rules for acceptance are made up among a group of people. Those people are all living on the surface of this one small, blue marble. This planet is floating through space. Orbiting the Sun. Which is part of the Milky Way galaxy. It puts fashion and oil wars in a different perspective. It gives you the option of valuing yourself as part of the greater whole. We all still interface with the construct because we live in communities. We are a cooperative great ape species. But you are not limited to seeing yourself in terms of how the construct would (de)value you. You are not limited to having to accept those rules and values as gospel. Indeed, humanity has made and remade culture and social structure over and over during our evolution. We make it up as we go along and it is currently undergoing some much needed revision.
For years I battled with this. It’s only very recently that I’ve been able to find a break in that depression and stress. If you are in that place, the one thing I want to say to you is that I’m on your side. Hang in there. Despite what the construct will tell you, there are billions of people waiting to welcome you to real, meaningful connection. We want for you to be well. We want for you to be happy. We look forward to living in a social structure of a more intentional creation. One where people have access to the resources they need to grow and live, rather than constant debt and fearmongering.
We’re in this together.