“You say you would like to sit beside me while I write. Listen, in that case I could not write at all. For writing means revealing oneself to excess, that utmost of self-revelation and surrender… that is why one can never be alone enough when one writes…why even night is not enough.” – Franz Kafka, in a letter to his wife
“Happiness only real when shared.” – Into the Wild, Christopher McCandless- written in a personal journal days before his death (a combination of starvation/malnourishment and the ingestion of a poisonous berry) , after embarking on a 2 year odyssey of lone exploration, working menial jobs, scraping by, living a life modeled after naturalists like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“Build a cell inside your mind, from which you can never flee.” – Saint Catherine of Siena
The pull of solitude is always there for me. It is easy. It is relaxing. I like to think that a still mind, trained in the rigors of reeling in neurotic emotions, is the ideal state. Most social interaction leaves me feeling exhausted after a certain point. Unless I am close with the person already, I see talking as merely inane chatter; noise, futile attempts to feel less alone that misfire, on me at least. After a certain point, there is no longer any exchange of any pertinent information or emotion. I shut off.
My usual course of action in the dating world inevitably results in the proverbial bodies in the basement of my subconscious, being discovered. In other words, my subconscious self-loathing and inability to trust comes seeping through the floorboards like the blood from the body that Edgar Allan Poe is trying to hide in The Raven. My subconscious, or my superego, as Freud would call it, is sublimated, but in recent years, I feel it is clear as day now, but I continue to deny the existence of the toxins polluting my subconscious and fueling the engine of my glum existence. I have a lack of trust in people and a continual need to underwhelm and disappoint as a way of seeking familiarity and comfort to replicate my relationship with my dad. After many years of trying and failing to scale the impossibly high wall of social connection, the devil is always on my shoulder urging me to quit and saying that I should accept the fate that I am not cut out for being loved and valued by someone. The level of my repression is such that a healthy give-and-take romantic relationship seems as if it is something I don’t possess the ability to engage in.
But what if a solitary life is the condition under which my mind can have an incubator for flourishing? What if the ideal conditions for my life are listening for the subtle energetic vibrations of silence? A life of introspection in search of a connection and higher calling from God? This sounds grandiose and narcissistic when I verbalize it, but it doesn’t discount the pull I feel towards silence, solitude and the intuition that there are lessons and wisdom to be had in the absence of noise. This urge for silence has been enhanced by the Ayahuasca experience, owing to the fine tuning of my receptivity to normally sub-perceptual energy. The more I meditate and seek stillness of body and thought, the more my body and mind crave it.
Ayahuasca taught me that the medicine will be in body, infused with my spirit for a very long time, if not forever. Whenever I choose to listen and access higher consciousness, it is there for me. There are the rare moments, that are becoming more frequent, of a calmness sweeping over my body and mind while I meditate. This is what keeps me coming back. I sense the reassuring intuition of: Everything’s going to be ok, you have the light within you, and you always have. This has been one of the hardest insights to process, that I am not the irreparably warped, jaded, angry person that I thought I was, that at our cores, in our hearts we all have an innate goodness waiting to come out. That a state of exuding positivity is our most natural state and the way we were meant to live. I learned that in the most real sense, at a molecular level, in the form of a physical sensation of oneness with the universe and being cradled in the arms of a loving God, in the midst of the Ayahuasca ceremony.
My present issue is taking these blissful experiences (who knew meditation could be so pleasurable?) and applying it to every day life. I have struggled the lessons from Ayahuasca in an organized fashion. It still baffles me. I have become more disillusioned with every day life: the family constructs, the incessant parading of the mighty self in our culture, the narcissistic charade of weddings, just all the fucking bullshit. I want to move to an Ashram in India for a few years. I want to live on a commune in New Mexico in the 60’s. I want to walk across the United States. I crave freedom of the spirit. A mounting disgust of the current state of Western culture (The U.S. representing the ugliest of it) has reached a critical mass in me. I want to know myself and the Universe in the most intimate sense, diving to levels that some are not able to come back from. I have a fierce determination to know myself, and in doing so know the universe because I am the universe, you are the universe, and the universe is in encapsulated in this very moment, vanishing past you with every passing second, as Alan Watts says.
Solitude has the potential to teach me things about myself. There’s a world in my head that is completely foreign to me. There is so much work to do, so much to learn and explore in my own head that I am still a complete stranger to. I am finding, now being home for a little over a month after an Ayahuasca retreat, that I am just beginning to process the experience, I haven’t even scratched the surface. At the same time, I feel it has awakened a sleeping beast inside me. It feels as if there is no other option than to make the focal point of my life exploring these altered states, the mystical state that William James first described in The Varieties of Religious Experiences in 1901. Yes, these substances have the potential to be euphoric experiences, and to be perceived as chasing a drug high. Although to have a truly transcendent experiences, you need to confront the demons in yourself, and I wouldn’t call that euphoric. I know that at the core of my motivation is a yearning for contact with God and the divine within. Pure connection and bliss on earth is what I seek, because why the hell else are we here, than to help our fellow human and feel the bliss of being alive in the process?
Meditation is beginning to make me ever-so-slightly more relaxed, in the last two weeks that I have committed to at least 10 minutes of meditation via the app Headspace. in the process of focusing on the sensation of your breath and consciously directing your attention to the vibration of each and every body part at different times, helps to stem the tide of the ocean of anxious thoughts ever so slightly and give me a small taste of peace. The objective is to reach that state devoid of thought, being aware of yourself as a being that thinks, but only as a side effect of your soul inhabiting a body. What I strive for is to become aware of the pure consciousness and life force in me behind these inventions of the mind of: “self, ego, apartness, individual.”
The practice of meditation is teaching me, slowly, that I can detach and gain some distance from every knee jerk reaction I have throughout the day of anger, shame, disgust. The surprising part for me is that it is starting to happen unconsciously, the situation will occur and only an hour or two later will I notice that I simply didn’t let the ostensible stressor, stress me on as deep a level as I usually do. These verbal wounds that others utter, I perceive throughout the day, yet they don’t have the power to wound me as deeply as they once did. And I can’t recount this process on a conscious, sequential level. I can only say that meditation provides a buffer between emotion and reaction, between thought and action, it starts you on a path of training the machinery of the mind, to defuse what were once volatile, explosive thoughts and emotions, and revealing them for what they really are: paper tigers, illusion, inventions of the mind.