Monthly Archives: December 2010

Cat resonates with light.

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IMG_1510 - 2010-12-03 at 13-25-16

[Image description:  A painting with a dark background that’s mostly blue and blue-purple with a bit of green swirled into each other. There is a stylized cat sitting and gazing up at a circle of light resembling the moon with a glow around it. Inside the cat is a similar white circle without the glow around it.]

From Rolling Around in My Head:

Rolling Around in My Head will be hosting the December issue of the Disability Blog Carnival. I’ve tossed around various ideas for the blog and have decided to post it on December 21st which is the winter solstace and the longest night of the year. Therefore I’ve chosen the theme to be ‘long nights and what we need to get through them’ … I’ve sure we’ve all had seasons of darkness and despair, hours of bleak desperation, I’m hopeful that people may have stories of what it took to get them through those times. Hope? Strength? Courage? Whatever it was, there’s a story there to tell.

There’s a lot of things I’ve done to get through hard times. A large amount of little things, and one big thing. The little things are various ways I remind myself about what matters. Objects that evoke specific ideas or feelings or experiences, written notes (by myself or my friends) reminding me of certain things about how the world works, or about my own life. Those things have their place in making sure that neither my thoughts nor my feelings run away with me in destructive ways.

But there is one thing that has worked better than anything else. It sounds simple but our reactions to it are at the root of more terror, denial, and avoidance in the world than anything else.  (But also more change, growth, love, and joy if it’s done right and often enough.) I’m going to describe it in specific terms of how it works, rather than in terms of the abstract words most commonly used to describe it, because those words unfortunately end up being used both to describe the thing I mean and its total opposite.  

For some reason I’ve written this in the second person as “you”, but be aware this is about how it works in my life not necessarily anyone else’s. Just imagine that this is what I would write to my younger self. These are NOT meant as instructions for the reader or anybody else unless for some reason they want to do this sort of thing:

Stop thinking (*). No, not even a little. Not the thought-that-pretends-not-to-be-thought. All of it. Stop. Now. Submit to the world. Not in a flashy showy way. Just completely let go, but in a somewhat focused way, so that you’re submitting to reality rather than confusion.  If you’re afraid, ride out the fear rather than running away. Just lay down anything you’re thinking or feeling, throw yourself down on existence, and let it happen for once without trying to bend it to your will.  Don’t get distracted by whether you notice anything different, feel anything different, or not.  Just stay silent and empty and let things happen. 

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Warning:  Do this enough, correctly enough, and your life will change. Not always in ways you think you want. But in the ways you need the most and don’t know it. This isn’t a strategy that will always make you feel good in the short term. As such, this is not a choice to make lightly: while it can sometimes make you feel better, it can also take you through times that can feel infinitely worse than where you started.  

But it will also make you strong, or maybe a better term is, able to rely on a deep strength that exists whether you are strong or not.  It will make you rooted and deepened in the most important ways that matter.  And that will be worth the rest, especially if you come into this with a sincere desire to do the right thing, to make the world better for others, not just yourself. 

You may also have little choice in the matter. Often, life pushes us towards learning to do this whether we think we like it or not (and often, deep down we want this more than anything even though consciously we may not agree). I would be dead if not for this but sometimes in the short term the resulting intensity and shutdown seemed to aggravate my already suicidal thoughts when I was already depressed. 

Either way, things like this are some of the most deep and lasting ways to deal with situations that would otherwise lead to despair.  There is a resiliency that comes from learning to surrender to a part of the world that is pure existence, that cannot be truly destroyed.

I’m someone whose life has pushed me into learning this whether I want to or not.  Which is another way of saying I’ve been to hell and back.  When people  think of me as resilient in the face of adversity, what they are really seeing is that I’ve learned to surrender to a deeper strength and protection than my own. That I have learned to simultaneously try my best to survive, but not be afraid of either life or death.  

Which means I am doing something quite different from the “trusting that things will work out” (and then surrendering to their emotions or their own thoughts, or worse to another person’s will and ego, having a warped and distorted parody of the experiences I’ve described, and thinking they’re doing what I’m talking about) that a lot of highly privileged people do. Their privilege lets them sail through adversity that could kill someone like me, and then claim that this is because the universe likes them a lot. Just, no. That’s an insult to everyone who doesn’t survive.  This is nothing like that. Danger for me is danger:  I could live or die, come out unscathed or heavily damaged, anything in between. What I trust is not that I will come out of everything squeaky clean, alive, and happy.  It’s rather that there’s a deep level of reality where even if I end up dead or damaged, my existence is connected to everything else and will always have happened.  It’s hard (impossible) to explain in words, but it comes down to a connection to a kind of goodness that is lending its strength to you even if the worst happens. 

This kind of submission can sound passive, but it’s an active process. And it can change how you relate to the world and to people in it.  I used to make the common mistake that if I felt unloved then I needed to find people who would love me (in a non-romantic sense).  This kind of thing showed me that love is less an emotion than a property of the world, or a way of living.  I had to do my best to live my life in accordance with the love-that-is-not-an-emotion and then love would be there whether I had friends or not. Not that friends are bad or unnecessary.  But that you can’t truly experience love without enacting love and living as part of it.  This is one of many valuable things I have learned by throwing myself at the mercy of the deeper levels of existence. There is hardship involved in this process but you also become increasingly aware of things like love and joy in ways that the usual versions are just hollow echoes of. 

The suggested hope, strength, and courage of the carnival theme are things I have only truly experienced by letting go of my own feeble imitations, and leaning heavily on the versions that are woven deeply into the world around me. And these things exist anywhere and anytime you look for them, if you’re looking in the right way. Times of despair aren’t times when they go away, they’re times when you can’t perceive them. You always have access to perfect love, perfect clarity, perfect hope, perfect strength, perfect courage, perfect wisdom, and perfect joy.

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[NOTE: I will not publish comments that ascribe to me or any single person qualities that I only truly experience by getting out of the way of the world around me, so don’t try to “compliment” me or anyone else about having these various positive qualities. It’s exceedingly important to remember that they are only part of me or anyone else by virtue of being part of the world in general. Too often compliments like that serve only to puff up a part of oneself that a person has to be able to get rid of in order to experience the real thing. I take this very seriously.]


(*) By “stop thinking”, I don’t mean let someone else do your thinking for you. This is a good example of how a phrase can mean both a thing and its opposite, making communication difficult. The bad kind of stop thinking means letting go of your capacity to intercept and get rid of crappy and dangerous ideas. The good kind means to learn how to avoid when necessary the kind of mental activity that normally goes on unceasingly and separates you from the world around you. The bad kind is actually just another form of the same mental activity. Unscrupulous people blur the distinction between the good and bad interpretation of any of the words I’m using, to take advantage of anyone who can’t tell the difference. This makes it hard to even discuss these things, which is doubtless part of the intent.

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