The Abyss Into Self-Realization

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The Bhagavad Gita reminds us this, that an ignorant man forgets nothing is done independently. So while this small part of my journey might seem very independent and solely about me myself and my isolation phase, which I still would hesitate to say I have graduated from, this is far from the reality of it. The truth is, this little journey is about the human experience and the nature of life itself, which I am by no means claiming to fully understand so I absolutely invite you to remain open but skeptical to all of what is written. I still know next to nothing and I’m beginning to realize this is the most beautiful part of it all. It is the willingness to remain curious and this self discovery that leads us to the most profound aspects of our being.

Humanity begins when inquiry is awakened within the mind, when man begins to question his own suffering — Bhagavad Gita As Is

I will start by saying this, everything has its season and try as you might one cannot skip seasons. It goes against the laws of nature. Believe me, I’ve tried and while I thought it was working… well… it wasn’t. Fall never skips straight to summer, winter never skips straight to fall. It is natural for living things to die and be born anew once again. The seasons come and go and the funniest thing about it is how much of a no brainer this natural phenomenon is, but how quickly I forget this when it comes to experiencing the seasons of my own life. I feel alive, excited, like everything is new and coming together, the birds are chirping, wow I freaking love life… Then the inevitable… “I want to be alone, things are changing, do I like change? This is highly uncomfortable, I don’t like this feeling. Something must be wrong. What’s wrong with me?

Nothing is wrong… You have simply forgotten that seasons come and go and that to experience what it is like to go up, one must go down, and to experience light, ya gotta know the dark too.

To put it quite bluntly, my life has been falling apart this year… but the good news is it has also been falling together at the same time.

Summer

I arrived back from living in Brazil, back into modern society 10 months ago. I expected that it would be a difficult transition after living in a paradise and then returning to living at home, having zero plan in many aspects for what was ahead career, financially, health wise. But to my surprise, it wasn’t… Things actually fell together quite nicely and very naturally. Various project work fell into my lap, I felt halfway clear on what I wanted to do with myself moving forward, how I wanted to contribute in a work sense, or so I thought, and for the most part I was able to maintain a pretty healthy life balance of “getting my stuff together” and still enjoying myself.

Fall

Fast forward 6 months later. I arrive back from a pretty amazing work trip to Laguna Beach, California. Everything felt surreal and was absolute perfection in my book, until it wasn’t. And like clockwork the season began to change. The projects I had been working with all of the sudden didn’t have work for me anymore. Turns out my medical bill is not actually paid off, and to top it all off, a dear friend’s time on this Earth had come to an end ,which hit me like a semi truck. When it rains it pours doesn’t it? So two months ago there I was, questioning everything about life, trying my best to keep a sense of awareness about it all but getting lost in the season.

The highs and lows during these days drastically differed, it was never a consistent low for me but a vast majority of them felt like nothing really mattered that much. I felt a certain superficiality to almost everything. I applied to a job here and there but I wasn’t hearing back from anywhere and did’t really feel motivated to pursue anything either. Nothing felt right, everything felt like a waste of time and energy, didn’t matter how much money it was offering. So, I stopped sending my resume. I would get the occasional burst of motivation but it wouldn’t last long. I stopped going to the gym, on a lucky day, I’d get myself to go to yoga which always helped in some capacity. Friends suggested I move closer to them getting me to surround myself with more people I knew and loved as I was living a solid 30 minutes from town being in the mountains. Perhaps being too isolated was the problem? In a way I quite enjoyed all of the alone time and didn’t really want to “fix” it.

Winter

And then another gift disguised as another challenging situation, my Mom left to go back down to Florida where her snowbird butt retreats for the winter season. And just like that life gave me exactly what I needed, more alone time. Great. Alone in the house I grew up in, 30 minutes away from town heading into the dead of winter with nothing but time on my hands. Perfect.

Robert Waldinger wrote,

“Quiet reveals the emptiness of going after the next big thing”

Which is exactly what quiet did, the sneaky teacher she is.My rational mind told me to just keep applying to jobs, but perhaps in more exciting locations, somewhere that would force me to start completely fresh, get out of my comfort zone, where I knew no one, new career, new people, new state, heck new country? A place where there was really only one warm beautiful season? This would for sure keep me happy. Or maybe just simply move closer to my friends and be more connected to people and work that was exciting to me. Or was it time for me to go to grad school? Deep down every bit of these options felt pointless because at the heart of it, I knew none of it would bring me happiness because every single one of these options was coming from a place of fear. Until I could I shift that, everything I did would be a bandaid for a much deeper inner search. I felt frozen with inaction. I noticed how much it felt as though I was waiting… but what for? `

And again like clock work good ole self-judgement came flying in as a cherry on top. In buddhism they call it the second arrow, a double edged sword, when we layer our feelings on top of feelings. Not only was I feeling the culmination of the pain from all of the initial discomfort from uncertainty and lack of clarity, but I was totally judging myself along the way. Feeling bad that I was feeling bad…

I masked my deeper feelings about all this to the people around me. Secretly, I hated that I wasn’t feeling more positive and motivated about everything. I hated that I felt so unclear and that my analytical brain had completely taken over and halted me from taking any kind of action. “This so wasn’t me” I told myself continuously… And the more I told myself that the worse I felt. My mom, hearing it in my voice one day, even said to me, “Bishop, I hate that you’re causing yourself to suffer so much” What? How did she know? Unbeknownst to me I thought I had been hiding it so well, masking it by making fun of myself with self inflicting jokes, pretending I understood the importance of the season I was in, coaching myself out of my feelings. Another big lesson here, you CANNOT coach yourself out of your feelings. Well, you can, and it might work for a little but, another short term solution. When I was using my rational mind to coach myself I was trying to solve what I thought was a problem with the same tool that created it, my MIND.

A different kind of winter…

Truth be told, these feelings are still very much a part of my present reality and as much as I’d like to include a happy spring season section to wrap this little tale up, it would be dishonest. Anthony De Mello in his book Awareness, which I HIGHLY recommend, tells a parable of a Zen Master who said:

“Before enlightenment I was depressed. After enlightenment, I am depressed.”

Waking up to ALL experiences throughout the seasons of life does not change the season, however it does change how I experience the season and makes me see that Anthony is definitely onto something big here. My thoughts and feelings about this rather awkward time in my life are still very present, however I’m noticing my experience of them is shifting.

I don’t want to just gloss over the turning point of the awakening here because there is definitely a turning point. However, for the length of this article I will go into the details of the turning point another day. Falling awake to your experience is a constant process, one that has no beginning and no ending and the details of this process could be a book, and in fact one comes to mind right now. Dr Seuss says it best in “Oh the places you’ll go” The man is a genius. Give it a read if you haven’t in a while. It serves as a spectacular reminder.

If you’re in this season of life, Tim Ferris also has some practical tips at the bottom of his article entitled; “Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide” under the section of Practical Gremlin Defense for day to day tactics to help you navigate this season. For me some of the following practices have helped tremendously and probably sound very taboo but do not underestimate them. And when I say practices, this is exactly what they are, activities to be practiced continuously.

1. Meditation — Give yourself permission and create a space to notice what’s ACTUALLY going on with complete non-judgement. That’s right, without judgement because it’s not about the amount of times you bring yourself back to your focus point such as your breathe, but HOW you’re bringing yourself back and with what attitude. STAY CURIOUS, be kind and watch. More on this later…

2. Dance — There is nothing like creating a bad ass playlist for yourself and dancing your butt off – allowing you to move through emotions. Emotions are NECESSARY to connect with your spiritual self. Learning to love your emotions and relate to them differently will lead you to experience tremendous breakthrough. Please read that last statement again because this is everything… Since I am a playlist junkie, here is a link to a playlist I created for myself and a friend that has really carried me through and allowed me to connect the last month.

3. Yoga — you’re probably shaking your head thinking yeah yeah I know… but let me remind you anyways, one class can be a highly profound inward journey if you let it, even if all you do is lay in savanna the entire time. I’ve done this…

4. Therapeutic Writing — aka what I’m doing write now 😉 helps me process and often leads to insights you would not have come to before. Get that shit out of your brain and onto paper!

5. Help someone — seriously there comes a time to get out of your head and into your life and serve. You don’t have to go on a big service trip, or maybe that’s what it takes, but it could be as simple as phoning a friend who you know would appreciate hearing from you.

“The suffering of humanity is due to the forgetfulness of why we are here, by serving other living beings we enjoy life. The rendering of service is the eternal religion of the living being — The Bhagavad Gita

Keeping these things in mind in combination with retreats involving plant medicines or other kinds of immersive experiences and some of the HUGELY helpful resources I name at the bottom of this article helped me IMMENSELY in waking up to my experiences. Knowing and becoming aware are two very different things. You can KNOW you’re going through a darker phase, but it is a completely different experience to become AWARE of it. This cannot be done on your own.

To wrap this up I want to be clear, I am not here to downplay in anyway or over exaggerate depression, diagnose, self diagnose myself or anyone else, but to simply bring awareness to these emotions and the fact they are a very natural part of the human experience. I can’t help but wonder if more people saw it in this light and felt not so alone or broken, if suicide, addiction, and the overall state of mental health would be drastically different than it is today. Processing these darker emotions completely alone is not wise and reaching out to someone who can help often brings much needed awareness and clarity to something we never would have seen on our own.

Depression is considered the first noble truth of buddhism. Suffering feels very real, but it is brought on by delusion and this confusion when we identify with our thoughts and beliefs. We forget our true self which then manifests as depression. Another way to say this is that depression is when we nudge ourselves to awaken.

“One has to learn tolerance in the face of dualities such as happiness and distress, warm and cold, because by tolerating you become free from anxieties about gain or loss” — Bhagavad Gita As It is.

So yeah I’m in the dead of winter right now and some days I forget what summer is about. However in the depths of winter I am finding an invincible summer within and soon this season will pass and I will remember again. We all eventually remember again.

(Special acknowledgement to the following resources because without them this path of self realization would not be unfolding as it is ; the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Michael Singer, Alan Watts, Jay Shetty, Tim Ferris, Michael Pollen, Anthony De Mello, Dr. Seuss, my mother, my cousins dogs, to my friends who have been an endless sounding board the last few months, my beautiful yoga teacher Briana, and many others, because no matter how alone you feel, I can guarantee you, you are not. Very grateful for my seasons and the teachers within them all.)

Another important note, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly as a resource or even just to share your experience or thoughts if this resonates with you on some level. Namaste 🙂

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