A story of psychosis, a wizard, a collapsing head and one fateful high-speed electric octopus chase
I’m going through something quite insane and difficult at the moment and I’ve got a right mind to tell the whole world about it. The problem is it’s incredibly hard to describe, nobody will believe me and there’s a bit of a back story so I’ve gone and used about fifteen thousand words – I hope you can be bothered. This story is out there – in a totally different paradigm to the one we have. You have to open your mind for it to be able to go in. So sit up straight, close your mouth and breathe in slowly through your nostrils. Slowly breathe out.
This is a story of something that happened to me and my body six months ago and what has come from it. It was the most intense experience of my life and definitely the best. It shifted my whole understanding of existence, bodies, humanness and health. It changed my life as it showed me something I can’t un-see. Sorry, but I’m going to tell you about it. The experience left me believing that everything we tell ourselves about health is wrong. I knew our system was flawed but now it honestly feels like a total nightmare – everything is upside down but nobody seems to notice. Since so many people are suffering with disease and discontentment, pain and depression and no matter how hard we might try to look after ourselves and just feel okay it can still all feel like one massive pointless effort because the whole planet is screwed anyway, I reckon we could do with some other perspectives on health. And I’ve got one. There is such a lot of bullshit in this world, so much hidden, such little emotion able to be expressed, so much shame about our bodies and so many things we can’t talk about for fear of being judged or ridiculed or labeled and since life is precious and short and those things suck, I’m going to just put my whole self out there and hide nothing.
Every letter and punctuation mark I’ve typed of this has been healing. Special thanks go to the vowels.
Then She Flared Her’s Back At Me
Eight years ago I fell totally in love. It was the first time that had happened and it’s funny the things it brings up. Before anything happened, when there was just heaps of tension, I had this really anxious feeling running through me – something truly awful. I wrote a note which I kept until a few weeks ago. I wrote “1. Figure out what the terrible thing is I need to do before time runs out and it’s all terrible. 2. Untrick myself. 3. Actually do the terrible thing.” Well, I thought I just needed to dare kiss the girl but it’s been eight years and I think I’m just starting to figure it out.
The end of last year was rough. I’d just got back from traveling and was going through the break up of a seven year relationship. I felt like my life had fallen apart and my future felt completely unknown. At the same time, the nation was voting on whether it thought the relationship I’d been in was as real as a hetero one. Two thirds thought it was, millions thought it wasn’t – my ex’s parents included. I was staying at a friend’s place and working full time, doing massive days in an exhausting job. I was spent, emotionally and physically, in a deep way but with an agitated energy building up inside me. I told my friend I needed to do some art or I might explode. I didn’t do any art.
On the last day of my job I was very hungover from the Christmas party the night before. I’d gotten wasted on the never-ending free wine and by the time I got home I was so very sad. A sadness that has come over the years, especially when I’m drunk, that I could never attach to anything. A vast, seemingly eternal sadness that I just knew had something to do with life, being human in this world. I decided I wanted to figure out what it was and that though alcohol made it bubble up it didn’t ever seem to let it surface, so I would have to not drink ‘til I figured out this thing that had been haunting me forever.
Luckily, I figured it out that day. I got home from work, still feeling disgusting, and Googled ‘pudendal nerve neuralgia’ following a phone conversation with a doctor that day. I’ve had pain on the right side of my labia since I was fifteen. A few years ago I decided “yes, this actually is ruining my life, I’m going to do something about it” and then swiftly entered the gargantuan shitshow that is the modern medical world. During my time there I dropped my knickers for God knows how many people, spent too much money napping in front of the hypnotherapist, waited years to see specialists and went through a fair amount of discomfort having a scalpel applied to my vulva. It was a labiaplasty, performed normally as cosmetic surgery by old white dudes who work mostly in the private sector, but who also get to be the head of the department of the Women’s hospital in the public sector. The kind of old white dudes who can get away with saying “good girl” to a thirty year old woman who, sitting half naked about to be internally examined, just has to take it.
As I read all about this nerve condition I was like “yes! This is it! This is the bastard that I have”. The description of the pain as electrical is what did it. The pudendal nerve runs throughout the pelvic region on both sides of the spinal cord. I figured if I had this thing I would notice increased sensitivity in the whole area on the right side. So, after years of countless doctors and countless incorrect diagnoses, after all sorts of medications and toxic creams and ineffective surgery — after all that getting me nowhere I sat on my bedroom floor, picked up my insoles (arbitrary choice but I didn’t trust my hands) and performed a symmetrical full body examination of myself. I ran the insoles gently around my pelvis, then I went down my legs, up my stomach, along my arms and over my head. And I thought “well I never, isn’t that funny, the entire right side of my body actually feels horrible”. Completely different to the left. Irritated. Painful. Really far away like a strange veil lies over it. Being the most sensitive part my labia was just showing me the pain that runs through the whole right side of my central nervous system. I straight away connected the pain to my ear, where I’d had a major infection when I was younger. Then I began to put my body together in my head. My right hand hurt all the time, my right ear was really sensitive and the right side of my throat, my hip always ached. Some of the ways in which I act began to make sense. I realised it’s not that cold taps are always stiff, it’s that my right wrist is. Other things, more world shattering. The realization of how much this must have affected my life was overwhelming. I mean, it’s your body, it’s what we experience life through. I began to realise all the ways in which I’ve navigated the world in pain without even being able to name it as such. I know it sounds crazy to not realise my left and right felt so different. And I did notice but I never articulated it – never put it all together. I always just thought it sucks a bit to be in a body. Sucks a bit to be alive.
A week later I picked up the guitar. I’d avoided it because since being able to articulate that my body hurt, it hurt much more. The strings felt like blades under my fingertips and I realised very quickly the left side didn’t feel as it should either. Well, that tipped me over the edge and I had a spectacular meltdown. I was on my hands and knees laughing and crying uncontrollably, wailing and groaning. Anna, one of my brand new housemates in my brand new house found me on the bathroom floor. “It’s my whole body. It’s the left and the right” I was sobbing. “Yeah mate” she said. I mean, what else can you say? Despite how I looked I felt good. My body has felt this pain for seventeen years. When you can suddenly articulate something about your entire being that you’ve never before been able to it’s a good release. But, holy shit, a sudden awareness of how imbalanced, numb and in pain you feel is uncomfortable. It’s an existential discomfort but finally you can identify it. It’s no longer this dark, distant demon haunting you — it’s right there inside you, in your muscles and in your cells. Seems a bit obvious, really.
I’d been going to see a pelvic floor physio anyway so at my next appointment she had to deal with my existential crisis. She explained to me what modern science tells us we know about pain. How if we stub our toe, our toe doesn’t send a pain message to our brain, it just sends a message to say ‘there’s a thing’ and then our brain decides if it likes stubbing its toe or not. And if it doesn’t it will hurt. If we stub our toe repeatedly the pain patterns will stay stuck in the brain and the toe will always hurt even when we’re done stubbing it. Eventually the pain will spread to other parts of our body. She explained that chronic pain is neurological and that I needed to train my brain into lifting my pain threshold. Essentially I need to teach my body that it is safe – it doesn’t need to be scared. Neuroplasticity was what it was all about which was a bit exciting and seemed like a good challenge. I read Norman Doidge’s The Brain’s Way of Healing, filled with examples of incredibly simple and effective therapies using light, sound and visualization coming out of cutting edge neuroscience research. It blew me away and gave me a really solid belief that I could get rid of the pain.
I needed to put new information into my body so my first exercise was to gently rub my skin. I couldn’t do it because my palms hurt too much. That’s a thing I haven’t been able to do – rub skin. So the next exercises she prescribed were for my hand. I was to use an app on my phone which showed me pictures of hands. I had to say as quickly as I could whether it was a left hand or a right hand. They are in all sorts of funny shapes so it’s not quite as easy as you think. The idea is to build up the map in your brain for hands; make you more aware of hands as a thing. At the end of the session my physio suggested, almost as an afterthought, that I could try using a mirror too– a trick they use for phantom limb syndrome.
I was feeling quite motivated to get all the horrible existential pain out of my body so I played the boring hand game and I stared at a mirror for a few days. Other than walking the dog I didn’t do much else. I held the mirror in my right hand and made strange shapes with my left hand in front of it. I lined up the image with my right arm and gazed at it for hours. It works by tricking your brain into seeing your hand move, but doing so effortlessly. After three days there came a moment when I realised I was seeing the image and feeling it completely as my right hand. I put the mirror down and picked up the guitar. It didn’t hurt and my fingers hit the strings more accurately. I stroked my dog and she felt soft under my right hand for the first time. Then I had my second major meltdown in my new house. I was on my hands and knees again, crying and wailing and laughing uncontrollably. “I’m fine. It’s amazing!” I was telling Anna this time from the hallway floor, through snot and tears and a massive smile. Finally, life wasn’t just exhausting or predictable. It was really fucking weird. I had a brand new hand.
I guess it was kind of spastic. Not really noticeable until after I’d noticed though. Compared to most people’s my hands definitely seemed a bit rubbish. But it’s all just a spectrum right, so the less dexterity you have the more spastic your body is.
Staring at a mirror for three days changes your mental state. I didn’t sleep that night, instead I lay in bed and had the sensation I was airbrushing myself. By the next day my body was beginning to fill my awareness. When my hand got upgraded it became weaker and the thing that had done it seemed like it had some momentum. I was a bit nervous I was somehow going to lose the functioning of my hands and feet so I emailed my physio. “Don’t worry, a bit of weakness is normal given the sensory information being altered slightly,” she goes. “Okay” I said, “it just feels like it might be altered quite significantly”. My hand felt like it was turning to liquid.
That evening things kicked off. I was acutely aware of my body and was feeling enormously uncomfortable. I was in my room crying and groaning. I felt electrical, imbalanced and full of static. It was as though I could feel every particle in my face but I couldn’t tell where the sensations were coming from. I had face noise. My nose felt like it was being warped through spacetime, stretched across galactic distances in such slow motion it was unbearable. Parts of my body felt like they were missing and were scattered across the universe. I was struggling, kneeling over my bed. My face felt like it was going to actually pop from the pressure but then a huge release of energy rippled over my head. The tension fell away and my body began to rapidly collapse. I became very heavy, my head and limbs too much to hold. I went to swallow and nothing happened. My breathing changed, it was clear but very shallow. It was such an effort to move. My hands were worthless, droopy and weak, they just flopped wherever my arms managed to fling them. I couldn’t speak properly. To get through the night of quite extreme discomfort I cried and I laughed and I asked questions to myself. “Yesssss. But Whhhhyyyy? Ohhhhhh I Seeeeee. It’s Beauuuut-i-ful. It’s Sooo Funnn-ny.” My housemate, Eden, found me at 5 am in the hallway. I’d tried to have a bath but I realised I might drown so I somehow slid out. “What has happened to you?!” they said. “Why can’t you hold yourself up?” I was sobbing. “I don’t knooow. Ma bod-dee is bee-ing real-lly s-t-r-aaange.” Eden put me back in bed and rested their head on mine. After the ripple over my head the night before, the whole right side of my body felt different, softer, and Eden’s head on mine honestly felt like the most beautiful thing in the world. After so many years of my body feeling half numb it suddenly felt so very alive. Later a friend kissed me on the cheek and, again, it couldn’t have felt nicer. Except it could have and it always can and that’s the whole point.
I giggled and I groaned and I talked like a tripper and roared like a lion when I needed to gather enough strength to roll over in bed. I was having a great time trying to describe what I was going through – it really was the funniest experience. I laughed more in those few days than some people would in their whole lives. As Eden lay next to me listening, I got the first glimpse of the expression I saw on people’s faces for days – grave concern mixed with serious amusement. I really liked it. Similar to curiosity, it’s a look where the person is really looking in, trying to compute. A look that shows you’re being stretched.
My body continued collapsing and I kept on laughing, singing, crying, shouting sentences. I didn’t sleep for three days. The second evening my legs were shaking uncontrollably. It felt like I had a vibrator embedded into each bum cheek and I was fighting it like crazy. It was so uncomfortable. I was shouting and moaning and out of my mouth which was opening ever larger came a series of the loudest, longest “FUUUUUUUCCCKS” the people of Coburg North will likely ever hear. I asked Anna who was with me if she was worried about me at that point, basically, if she was over looking after her new, completely mental, vibrating housemate. “No it’s okay. Sometimes shaking can be a form of trauma release.” I already knew this whole thing was good, but I must have been looking for some soul to agree with me. When she said that I let out a very loud, long noise from my mouth and then flipped back to uncontrollable giggling. Much better. The next night I could feel the shakes coming on again. I wrapped myself in my doona and lay vibrating head to toe for hours, this time totally at ease. I rested by humming softly to myself through the night. The next day was when I began to feel awesome.
After being a weirdo very loudly in my room for days, I began to be a weirdo more quietly. After the nights of shaking it was like my body opened up. Muscle pain that had always felt far away, deeply embedded, was suddenly accessible and tender. I was chanting words, composing classical music as I stretched and naturally just doing yoga – my body in charge. I was doing quite good contemporary dance. I would throw my palms up high in front of me and exclaim as quietly as I possibly could, with my face absolutely exploding out of my head, “WOW!!!”. I played air keyboard, air drums, conducted a spectacular air orchestra.
I was very supple as I rebuilt. I remember leaning forward to touch my toes and for a second being terrified that my legs had lost a foot in length during the whole episode. My posture improved. I was so malleable I had to keep rearranging how my head sat on my spine or I’d set myself with my chin to the sky, or off on an angle. I felt like I’d been put on a spring that held me in perfect tension between the Earth and the Stars, or like my body was my mind’s own puppet. Coming out of it I also felt emotionally grounded, peaceful and excited to exist in this mad and beautiful universe.
A manic person who has been laughing and crying and collapsing for days, claiming that they’ve figured out how to heal themselves and who was potentially talking about wizards is something to be a bit sus’ of in our culture though. It was already proving hard to be believed or understood and then the modern medical world stepped in and made it impossible. I’d called my physio (who by the way is the wizard) in the morning after forgetting how to swallow and nearly drowning in the bath. I was explaining the unexpected effect of the mirror trick quite clearly but I didn’t sound normal – I sounded like a drunk child. She suggested I go to my GP to get something to help me sleep. “I caaan’t go into the wooorld. I can’t get out of beeed. And I don’t need a GP, I need a sha ha ha ha ha ha. A sha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…” Well, that didn’t help. My physio, who I think is in denial about her wizardry and so was presumably giving some thought to her indemnity insurance, was quite worried at the developments following her prescribed exercises. She called my GP to try to sort out sleeping meds and then the system took over. “Laughing? Healing herself? Wants a shaman?” It said. “Let’s do a suicide assessment and then send some social workers to her house against her will [one with a voice so grating suicide all of a sudden became an option]. That’ll fix her right up.”
Despite those useful interventions I still couldn’t sleep so the next day I went to the GP. I very clearly explained the whole bizarre situation, the mirror trick, the rapid neurological reboot that had collapsed me and taken away some of the pain. But I could see my words weren’t going in. “I can move my limbs so easily” and I did a very elegant figure of eight with my arm. She looked at me. “And flare my nostrils.” I flared my nostrils at her. The point I was trying to make was that my body felt very different to a couple of days prior; I had much more control over it. The doctor clearly thought I was claiming superhuman powers. “Everyone can flare their nostrils” she said and then she flared hers back at me. That was annoying. During the consultation I laughed (too much tension) but because the doctor wasn’t in my body she didn’t get what was so funny and my reasoning of “it feels really good” didn’t satisfy her. So then she also secretly prescribed me anti-pyschotics and secretly put me under the care of the emergency mental health team. My next of kin was called and because of a failure of language to communicate experience, the news then ended up getting to my mum that I’d gone psycho, was not at all in my body, and that I needed be on drugs.
It’s hard to describe how very scary and lonely it is to have people think you’re out of your mind when you’re positive you’ve never been more in it. Nothing bad happened to me but I did discover then that in Victoria where I lived, if they had wanted to, they could have taken me away and had me hospitalized and drugged. I was experiencing the most empowering moments of my life and they were matched with the extreme opposite, which just makes perfect sense really. I am eternally grateful that just before this happened I moved into a house with three angels of anarchy, who though were definitely concerned, were bold and brave and open minded. They looked after me and fed me electrolytes when we realised I hadn’t drunk any water for quite a while. They talked down the CAT team at the front door, told me what the State was saying and gave me smoothies to drink and soaps to smell when I was so sensitive those things left me laughing and shouting and crying tears of joy.
My brother didn’t like it when I said after the whole thing I was feeling spectacular (couldn’t I just have said I was fine?). No. I wasn’t fine. I had my fingers stuck in the cosmic pie and I was feeling spectacular. My mum was worried when I laughed at the suggestion I take the anti-psychotics, as a mum would be. My ex-girlfriend was mad at me because she thought I was trying to kill myself. The people around me looking after me, try as they did, could not possibly understand what I was going through. My dad seemed to get it a bit. First, on the phone, he somehow managed to use it as a segue to talk about Brexit but then he told me it reminded him of a short story by HG Wells, Country of the Blind. I listened to that story, laying on my bed as I recovered. It went right to the core of me and made me feel in some way understood. It’s a story about a man who falls off a mountainside into the Country of the Blind. The people who live there have eyes sunken back in their heads and nobody can see. It started happening slowly, generations ago, so by the time this man arrives there the people have no concept of sight. He wants to teach them to see but they think he’s crazy and they want to remove his eyes. It’s a story about us. About humans and our senses and how easy it is to lose them.
It took a few weeks to feel in any way normal. I had found a shortcut to my core and being in my body felt so much easier. But it was like I’d stepped into an avatar – one that was part Bambi, part hologram. A few days after the thing peaked it was very hot so we went up to Warrandyte to swim in the Yarra. I’d barely left the house in a week. I’m pretty sure I actually could have walked the slope down to the river quite normally, slower for my weakness, but the thought of doing it without full concentration and awareness felt like the most wrong thing in the world so it took me about fifteen minutes to walk a hundred metres. I had to feel my body completely, every tiny movement. I had to feel the dirt under my feet, notice the difference between the coarse dust and the tiny pebbles. I had to feel the breeze through the hairs on my legs, absorb an endless spectrum of colour, breathe in the eucalyptus air and let the sound of the river rush through me. And you gotta slow down for those things. You cannot imagine the joy I expressed when my body hit the water on that forty degree day.
I wrote to the doctor’s surgery following what happened. I wanted them to know that their automatic mental health crisis response was actually the opposite of helpful in every way. I thought getting the pain out might mean it could happen again and what with them (apparently, legally) breaking the privacy code, secretly putting me under state care and trying to drug me, I was a little concerned. They thought a lot about it but they stood by what they did and said they would do the same again (but they still wanted to help me). Well, I figured if I went back there that would make me actually insane.
During that three day long cosmic reboot I would have really liked a shaman – someone to help guide me through it. Maybe play the didge and sing to me. I was so aware of the beautiful ancient culture that grew on the land I was on that could have given me what I needed but instead is trampled on by the same worldview that saw me laughing, didn’t get the joke and lashed out like a spoiled brat. It’s the same worldview that is destroying all the beauty in this world, bulldozing the forests, cooking the oceans, clogging the atmosphere. It’s the same one that values white people over black people, men over women, humans over animals, money over life. It’s the one that is making everyone, no matter how much they have, miserable. It’s the worldview that sees everything as a binary instead of a spectrum. It’s the worldview that has us headed where we’re headed which, if you’ve managed to still not let it go in, is the exact wrong way. We don’t need to divert, we need to back the fuck away. Then we need to turn around and see what it is we’re running from. If we are throwing things at it we should start uncovering it. If we are neglecting it we should start paying it some attention. If we are destroying it we should start loving it.
What I needed was to be looked after and not stressed out. What I didn’t need was to have my mental state ripped apart from my physical state so that one could be prioritised over the other and then drugged. Can we stop being so incredibly boring? Can we take an interest in our existence? Can we think ‘oh that’s interesting, she got a new hand and then her body collapsed and rebuilt and now she seems to be laughing a lot. I wonder why?’ Instead of ‘let’s drug her and make the symptoms go away’.
Those few days gave me a glimpse into how alive I could feel and it was obvious that that was still only the tip of the iceberg. It became clear that our baseline for health is completely arbitrary. We have no idea what a body is supposed to feel like – we get one, it gets shaped by our genes and by the world around us and we think of it as normal, or normal enough. We often only notice them when they hurt but between the awareness of pleasure and pain lies a world of infinite numbness. I vowed to myself never to forget the feeling I was given. It showed me – as much of the cutting edge research in neuroscience is showing us and as many cultures have shown us for thousands of years – that we have an incredible inbuilt self-healing mechanism within our minds. I knew with certainty that I was done with the mainstream health system, done with being a patient.
A few weeks after the episode I went to a neurologist. I’d been on the waiting list for months and I basically went so I could tell my mum I’d been and also it seemed like a neurologist might be interested in a freak neurological reboot. She wasn’t particularly. She said it was probably just the magic mushrooms I’d eaten a month earlier (?), charged me $450 and suggested to me that cognitive behavioural therapy might help with pain management. Erm, no. I had just given myself a new hand in three days and altered the feeling of half my body by concentrating. I wasn’t about to go pay $150 an hour for a counselor to sit me down in their soulless consultation room and try to convince me I’m not in pain. I felt clear on what I needed. The vibration, which I filled myself with through shouting, singing, crying and laughing and the nights of shaking, was going to heal me. I wanted singing bowls and gongs, meditation and movement. And I was so desperately bored of riding the Upfields bike path, seeing all the constipated faces of stressed out, tensed up, ‘the harder I try the better I’ll feel’ people riding past me. So I tidied up my universe string, packed up my life and headed to the Himalaya.
Macro to Micro
That’s where I am now. First I went to the big things. I trekked around Everest and Gokyo Lakes and the jungle foothills of the Himalaya for three weeks. Some of it was like being on the moon. With thin air, thirteen kilos on your back and passes that seem at times unreachable, you really learn to focus on what’s right in front of you. Normally an upward facing hill. Sometimes the biggest mountain in the world. Stepping. Breathing. Pushing. Looking. Big sky. Wide plains. Absolutely enormous mountains. Scale takes on a new dimension – the pebbles, rocks; the boulders, fells. After totally destroying my body I came down the mountains to the micro. I’d booked a month of yoga – Himalayan style – with daily saltwater nostril cleanses, the odd intestinal and throat cleanse (incl. diarrhea and vomiting), mantra chanting, meditation, yoga nidra, concentration exercises, singing bowls and stretching.
That’s another thing that made me know my physio was a wizard from another dimension – how she told me way too casually that yoga might help when in fact it is the most beautiful, perfect solution to all the problems in the world. That’s what a wizard would do – subtly give away the magic secrets of the universe and then deny any part in the madness. I did about ten weeks of days filled with yoga and meditation. What I’ve experienced and figured out about my body is essentially impossible to talk about with the words we have and without appearing mental. But fuck it. Open your mind. Relax it.
For the first week or so all I wanted I do was sleep. Then I got sick. Bloated tummy, diarrhea, sore throat. Then I started to get more sensitive. At the beginning it felt amazing just to feel a slight sensation at my nostrils; then I noticed that my cough was triggered by the particular sounds that were coming into my ears; now it feels normal to close my eyes and enter a multi-verse of continuously-constructing humanness. In two months I’ve recreated everything that happened to me during that time, but mostly with less intensity and more awareness. I haven’t felt like my knees are melded in a knot and suspended in space. I haven’t felt like large portions of me are static electricity scattered across the universe. I also haven’t felt myself like pure, rushing liquid energy taking up space in body form where there’s no separation between me and the world around me, no difference between me and the ever-stretching cosmos. But I know what all of that was now and it seems incredible that we don’t see it.
After a few weeks of body meditation feeling really nice, it began to feel very uncomfortable. I was doing yoga nidra daily where you lay down and are guided through your body. Right Hand Thumb. First Finger. Second. Third. Fourth. Palm of the Right Hand. Back of the Right Hand. Right Wrist. As each body part is named you relax it. The more able I was to relax the more I realised I am never actually relaxed. My body is constantly crawling. Eventually I begun to see the flow of energy in my body – it appeared as light on a black background, sometimes clear, sometimes subtle. I saw where my breath goes. The air comes up the left nostril, loops over the right eye, hooks back over the left and goes straight down into the side of my nose, creating a lump I’ve had since I was a teenager. I’ve always found it ugly and slightly uncomfortable. After my reboot I had this strong feeling that this lump was involved. I realised that although I was “self-conscious” about it, my mind had zero awareness of it. I got my nose pierced after the thing, but unfortunately that didn’t cut it.
Freak of Nature
After seeing the energy in my body as a flat image, I began to see it in more detail – it looks very different. You know how people always comment on the spirals you see in nature? Well they are in us too, surprisingly. I can feel and see so clearly the energy that runs through us. You can find it anywhere – it’s what makes us smile, speak, chew, laugh, cry, give birth, urinate, defecate, feel things, think things. It’s the reason we are alive. It comes to us in the breath for which we never need to ask and it moves in a spiral through our whole body. The spiral runs both up and down us and inside it are what seem like strings filled thick with infinite speckles of humanness. It is very beautiful. The two sides spin around and you are constantly created. It’s clear what this force wants to do to you if only you will let it. It wants to expand you. It wants to pull you in as tight as you will go and push you out beyond your limits. As I sit and watch myself I feel like computer and programmer. Robot and engineer. Except that what I have to do is absolutely nothing, just breathe very gently. It feels very obvious that this force that moves inside us pulls together everything that we are. Our emotions, our memories, our beliefs, our sadness, our capacity to love, our sense of humour, our humanity. It wants to break down those self-imposed limitations and make us feel more. It wants to open up your eyes, gently stretch apart your ears, plump up your lips, remind you that you’re alive as breath gets pulled up your nostrils. It wants you to see more fully, hear more subtly, kiss more softly, speak more clearly. It really is so clear that it wants to expand us and with us the definition of what it means to be human.
The spiral is supposed to run through your centre. It’s your core. Mine comes in on an angle though, through the right side of my head and into my left nostril, which is essentially a black hole of tension. Then it heads down and slams into my right labia and takes a sharp turn into my right hip. This spiral has skewered me in on myself and I’ve discovered that if I stand twisting to up the left– that is my body at ease. Basically if you are relaxing (expanding) it moves through you in a spiral. If you are tensing (contracting) it twists you. And it seems we are always doing one of those things and it’s determined by whether or not we’re aware of our breath. This twist shows itself everywhere I look. It makes the really solid ‘knee’ feeling be in the wrong place. My hips rotate and hurt in different ways. It twists my stomach up and down, warps the sensitivity of my genitals, makes my left breast and nipple feel numb and the right feel over sensitive. My palms and fingers curl out and none of my knuckles are aligned. When I point my fingers my arms want to twist out in different directions. The fingertip feeling is in the wrong place – nothing is quite right. Over the years it has twisted my head and features, clamped one ear down and one ear up, dragged my senses to the right and shut down those on the left. When I smile the left side of my face looks a bit dead and when I speak it hardly does anything all. Same with my throat. The breath comes later and it reacts more slowly. It can’t come in at the same time on a word so it gets left behind. I realise now that one eye wants to go up and the other wants to go down. And they want to do it at different speeds. I’ve been counter balancing it since I was fourteen.
This off centre spiral makes my ears hear different frequencies and one a fraction later than the other. It makes me rubbish at timing and staying in key because my ears and vocal chords don’t work symmetrically. It makes using my body way more of an effort than it should be. And until recently I didn’t know any of this. I had no idea at all what an adult human body should feel like, there’s been a steady normal since I was fourteen and now that I can feel myself in this perpetually relaxing process and know how far away I am from what my body should feel like it is really pretty hard to bear. All you can do is try to constantly let go. You might want to die if it wasn’t for the fact that the sheer strength of raw nerve sensation through your awakening body didn’t also make life feel indescribably sacred.
I can see that over time my breath has constructed me in the most unbelievably minute detail in my mind. I see I’m twisted through every layer of my skin. I see my head as a whirlpool of contracted and stretched out features spiraling infinitely inward and outward and I see my body with a hundred thousand faded spinning limbs. When I stand up and consciously relax the top of my head and let this force beat through my body, the sensation of being internally untwisted is pretty much intolerable. It is so strong that I feel the left side of my stomach twisting up and the right side twisting down, my hips, knees, ankles and, unbearably slowly, my toes rolling both in and out, so fast, so slow. It is so hard to keep up with my mind and often I realise I’m still holding on. Then I let go some more and because tension built up I get spun around and flipped inside out, my stomach upside down. My head spinning.
Now that I’m aware of what is going on in my head I can feel it so clearly. I feel this thick clog all through it, I feel slow-moving eye, nose, mouth data traveling through my face. I feel my face stretching and contracting at all different speeds and in all different directions and it feels like it has a lead-heavy freezing cold sludge all over it. The deeper in I go, the further back in time I go. Observing the deepness from the outside it goes so slowly but when you take your mind there everything is moving so much faster. If you lose track for a few moments you can end up with your nose covered by your eyes and inside out on the back of your head. The effect is an uncomfortable tightness and itching.
Because my face is now releasing all this tension through my senses I have near constant electrical pain all through the left side of it – through my eye, cheek, ear, mouth. It feels painful because it is too concentrated – as the effect spreads through my body it becomes this softer combination of everything: painful and pleasurable, hot and cold, crawling and shimmering. My left eyelid never quite closed properly – now conscious of every layer of my face I can feel how the whole eye section, tangled up with my nostril, mouth and ear twists back deep down into me where there is no beginning. I’d gotten so used to countering the twist that it is easy to go the wrong way – there is room to move in both directions now. To close my eye when my face is unraveling, I have to do it as gently as I possibly can. If I lose control it feels like I’m bleeding an electrical liquid through what looks like a slow motion intergalactic battle going on in my head.
It shows why it’s so hard to face your pain – it is really, really uncomfortable. And for me it shows so clearly that there is no difference at all between physical and emotional pain. Pain is pain and we feel it in our bodies. The feeling of my whole face needing to unravel itself about a hundred million times but not being able to go anywhere near fast enough is exactly the same feeling as a deep, deep, deep sadness that your mind won’t let your eyes cry out. If I do it really consciously every letter I type makes me want to cry from the sensation at the end of my fingertip and in my face and body – it is too much. The more consciously I do it the more uncomfortable it is but the more it releases tension the moment I relax.
This is all pretty impossible to put into words and I feel like there isn’t anybody in the world who can understand this and that most people will think I’m hallucinating. Well that’s probably because we don’t give our minds quite the credit they are due and it’s because we don’t give Life the credit it is due. If you were as clever as evolution and you needed to make a whole bunch of animals with a channel inside them that was responsible for them being able to eat and drink and breathe and digest and have sex and create more life, it just makes sense that you would choose a spiral. It’s really efficient for growth. And there is a reason why the snake has been the most widespread symbol for Life in cultures across the world and through the ages. We just don’t care for that kind of knowledge.
I know this seems quite unusual but I think it’s just unusual that I figured it out. What is very clear from this is that we hold tension, not just in our stomachs or our shoulders or our necks, but in every microscopic layer of our body our breath has built for us over our lifetime. We hold it in the vast majority of ourselves that we don’t even know we’re meant to be able to feel. It seems that the tension we hold in us is life and health waiting to happen, waiting for us to just take it. When we clench the tiny parts of our bodies unconsciously, and some probably start doing it as babies surrounded by struggle, the life that moves through us comes in a spiral, goes wasted and leaves us twisted.
What is this all about? It seems to be about acceptance. I imagine in the last couple of months of being guided through meditations that took me through my mind to the far reaches of space and down into the cells of my body, being softly spoken to in the beautiful and soothing Nepali accent, a voice telling me that I am loved, I am unique and filled with creativity, I am safe and I have everything I need — I imagine I’ve accidentally gone and accepted myself a bit. And since the nature of things is to stretch I was then asked to accept myself in a darker way.
We are so numb. So terrifyingly, heartbreakingly numb. To be skewered into a spiral on a dodgy angle through the lump on your nose is too good a trick – I was bound to figure it out one day. But what about your stiff neck or your wonky smile or your tired eyes? What about the parts of you that you think are totally fine? “No, I’m not numb at all”. Do you love freely and openly without fear? Do you feel blissfully cradled by nature and the life it gives us? Do you feel rooted to the Earth and connected to the Cosmos? Can you express yourself completely without hurting anyone or without fearing authority? Can you feel a pulsing life force holding you up? Can you locate all the tension in your body and release it? Do you keep in your awareness with every breath the knowledge that within you is all the beauty and perfection of creation? No. Didn’t think so.
Underneath an itch or a pulsation or a yawn or a tear is all of consciousness trying to come out.
We are so disconnected from our living, breathing, unimaginably cool and complex cosmic bodies that instead of feeling the subtle sounds of the world travel through us, waking us up and making us grow, we close ourselves off and are only able to notice something happening inside us when it’s about to kill us. This disconnection from feeling seems to be replicated on a much larger scale on the outside of us too. We’re so numb to our animality that we have wrecked our whole habitat and only now are we starting to notice that perhaps there is a bit of a problem. We are so numb to ourselves and to our humanity that we can bear living in the utter insanity of this world. And the reason it’s so insane is because we are so numb.
After my reboot I was telling my brother that everything made so much more sense now. Knowing the pain I’ve been in and how it’s affected me and that I can get it out. Knowing that when physical pain leaves your body emotional pain goes with it. Life felt like it was going to be a bit better. “Careful not to let it explain everything though” he said. No, no of course not. Why on Earth would we think that we would find all the explanations for ourselves inside us? What madness. Why would our bodies have anything to do with how we feel? Why on Earth would the state of our lives or the state of our world or the state of our mind have anything to do with these crazy, beautiful, amazing and insanely powerful bodies that we’ve been given to experience life through?
When I asked my wizard at the beginning of all this whether meditation would be good, she said if I found it helpful that’s good but some people found it made their pain worse as it brought their attention to it. I’ve heard that kind of thing before. “Can’t meditate, have tinnitus”. Sorry, but can we toughen up a bit please? What babies. Why would we think we can get rid of our pain without facing it, especially if we know that it’s created in our minds? I think deep pleasure comes from deep pain because the extent to which we can contract we can also expand. It is simply feeling a lot. It is letting go or it is struggling ceaselessly. It’s so sad to think that people get so close, on the verge of breakthrough, and then when it hurts they back out thinking they must be going the wrong way. It works the same with emotional pain as it does with physical. And tinnitus, I know from my head collapsing, is the sound of vibrations struggling to get through a new part of you that is trying to open up. It gets worse and worse until finally it has actually caught your attention, you slowly bring your mind directly to it, relax it and then it is gone. Because pain isn’t something that needs to come out it’s something that needs to be transformed.
We’re living in an absolute parody and I think we are being royally bullshitteded to. The worldview we have puts us with the rest of life when it’s beneficial to do so and separates us when it’s not. They think there’s something a bit special about us. There is – it’s that our self awareness makes us not at all self aware. Science excludes experiential evidence which means it excludes the living part from life. It is enormously incomplete and it’s driven by a form of understanding that doesn’t allow for knowledge through feeling, so anything it comes up with is not going to account for how we feel. If we could feel more we wouldn’t be wrecking the joint and killing each other and I would be able to write about this knowing I might be understood. But feeling things is ultimately the only thing that matters. I don’t want to think good and think nice and think loved. Science doesn’t allow for feeling because it deems it subjective. Doesn’t that seem a bit stupid though? To think there are rules and equations for everything except the ultimate way in which we all actually experience existence?
We seem programmed. By our genes, by our history and by the world around us. I think we’re programmed how to be and I think that program is our brain-body connection– and that it’s written all over our face. It’s like we’ve been collecting viruses since we came down from the trees and thought we’d have a go at being self conscious, then got all cocky and forgot to actually do it.
Life only ever tries to get well. Life is consciousness somewhere on the spectrum of awareness – it wants to evolve. When we see sickness we try to stop it but I think we’re supposed to feel it. I think health is awareness and sickness a coming-into-awareness. We evolved to feel – for the mind to fill the body like it does for all other animals. We are amazed that animals can find cancers in humans. Should we not be amazed that we didn’t notice it ourselves? We’ve gone so far off track that this kind of talk seems crazy but I think it’s the world that is crazy.
I don’t think we get sick, I think we get rid of sickness. I don’t think we catch a cold when we’re run down I think we release it because our bodies, with no energy left to keep struggling, finally let go. We don’t break, the tension does. I think we get allergies not to chemicals but to the kind of vibration they emit that our contracted, tensed up flesh can’t conduct. I think much of our disease comes from the words we do and do not say. I think being “sensitive” is what happens when your senses get twisted into your breath and run through your body – it’s just that it really fucks with you when it does it asymmetrically. All these new neurological problems like chronic fatigue, sensitized central nervous system etc., which they can attach all the fancy scientific terms to all they like to make them feel like they understand it, basically just seem to be a demand by the body for increased consciousness. I think all sickness is the same – it’s all of the mind. The tension of this world doesn’t fit in us anymore. And of course this world makes us contract – it is really quite awful what we’re doing here. But this world is nothing but a product of our minds which seems to give us only one way out, really.
We seem to be at an evolutionary dead end. If we get out of this mess it happens because we become more conscious and not of energy use and plastic bags but of the fact we’re alive. Maybe this is our time to go (and why not take all life with us?) but the particular kind of break that we made away from nature gave us one thing – a choice. It’s a choice to go back, to learn to let our bodies fill our awareness so that we feel more every day. So we know what expands us and what contracts us. So we know what actually feels good and what just doesn’t feel bad. The only problem is that this world has made “back to nature” seem like living in caves and wearing bear skins rather than being the animals that we are who want to touch and be touched, smell, feel, hear, sense, be loved, feel safe, feel connected, feel alive.
Does nobody else think it’s all a bit funny? A bit like there is something going on that we’re not quite ready to talk about? Something that explains this terrible situation a bit? Perhaps the whole universe, from the tips of our fingers to the edge of the cosmos is the reflection of our collective consciousness. Dark matter our unknown selves; stars, dense enough to give life but made of the lightest element there is – all the beauty, goodness and creative potential within; the loneliness and isolation of it nothing but our own perception of ourselves; the never-ending vastness of it showing us the absolute enormity of the power that is concentrated in life on Earth, that we so violently waste; and the planet’s bursting respiratory system what it takes to balance out our failure to notice that we are breathing.
That people still cannot see the ecological catastrophe we’re in I think attests to how things work – they can’t see how totally meaningless their lives are either. It’s always both things at the same time and everything always seems to be held in perfect equilibrium. We have just gone so far off track that we may all be about to die to balance it out. This world has never stayed the same but we can’t imagine it changing. We have never stayed the same for more than a single moment but we think of our existence as having some sort of permanence – being real in some way. Who are we kidding? It seems like voting NO to someone’s relationship comes from this deep fear of unreality – if your thing is more real than someone else’s then at least that’s something.
I think the more subtle vibration we are aware of in our body, the more we are alive and the more we are healthy. The more we are alive the more harmonious we are with Life and the deeper we go into ourselves and into our existence. I think all of humanity is locked inside us. Love, kindness, creativity, sexuality, gender. It’s like we all have locked in syndrome and because we don’t know how much more of us there is, we categorize ourselves and box ourselves in with identity labels. And when we box these things in and focus on them we expand those parts of us but at the expense of other parts. New options can open up in depth or breadth but not both. And it seems that all the goodness in the world comes from expansion and all fear comes from contraction. It seems like maybe when we have labeled everything, boxed ourselves up completely, there’ll be so much tension in us that we’ll explode and we’ll finally be free to just be ourselves.
This is what happened when I had my cosmic reboot: The tension that holds my body together in an imbalanced way suddenly released from my hand/mind. From what I can tell the mind just has to choose. Once that has happened momentum takes over. It triggered a cascade of effects through my body. My mind must have been moving so quickly that it was able to find a shortcut for the breath. An explosion of brainwaves rippled through my head and all of a sudden I could feel so much more. The space – the actual space just like in Space – between the minute layers of me that had just been created, needed to be filled. There cannot be a vacuum. It happened so quickly that my mind couldn’t absorb it through its own vibration so I had to make a lot of noise. The sounds and shapes I made with my body engaged me as I relaxed – they dropped into the spiral and pushed it on faster and deeper. I felt so much through my body that all I could do to bear it was laugh. If I was in a state of contraction though I would shout and swear and be in so much discomfort. Saying my face felt stretched across the universe seems to be the most apt description for observing your nose as millions of slow moving expanding and contracting particles. The shapes I made through sound in my relaxing state expanded my face, that’s why it was so easy to smile afterwards (physically and emotionally). When I was rebuilding and felt myself so malleable that I could put my head on wrong, I was. When your head and neck are rapidly relaxing any position you fix it into for more than a moment will set it there until you do something about it.
When we feel completely we hold the tension against ourselves in perfect balance and it’s when good things happen. It’s what is happening when someone sings effortlessly or plays an instrument or creates a work of art. It’s what happens when you taste something really delicious or hear something very beautiful and savour it, or look at somebody who you love and feel yourself beaming. When you think really deeply you seem to contract but in a really gentle way and then there is a point when a thought appears and it sends vibration through you in a new way and all of sudden the contraction releases, using the momentum to relax you even more. That is why to fundamentally separate mental from physical, thought from feeling, is so damaging. Thought without feeling can only stretch for so long before the tension breaks. And its breaking – from the micro level of our bodies and spirits to the macro of the planet’s climatic balance.
In the neuroscience books I’ve read they make a point of contesting the dualistic thinking around mind and body that Descartes cemented when he said “I think therefore I am” and everyone went with it. But they don’t really contest it because they still think it’s all about the brain. I have neurological pain that has twisted my whole body, misshapen my face, (subtly but definitely) lowered and brought forward my top left teeth and lifted and brought back my top right teeth and when I meditate the pain out if I can’t absorb the change in tension in time I get muscle spasms and electric shocks and unbearable itching all through me. I get prickling heat, icy cold globular liquid. I get everything in between and my body is basically shaking a bit all the time now. It’s not just the brain.
We’ll only ever find what we’re open to finding. We go down, down, down to the detail. We go sub-atomic, microscopic, we pull apart every last tiny little thing and we give it a name and act like we understand it. Instead of making spirituality what it is – the expansion of consciousness, respect for Life and the capacity for faith in the unknown, our Rational White Man world has made it into a childish fairytale, a bit of a loser game – fine if you like it but it’s not math. Urgh, it’s so disgusting. So high and mighty and so blindly narrow minded. It seems like we might one day see beyond the enormous complexity of it all to the simplicity of it as vibration and awareness. It seems like that’s what science is – a very long-winded but intellectually interesting route to the spirit and soul. It’s actually like we’re stretching it out intentionally though, not quite ready to handle the truth.
Maybe neuroscience will do what everything does – come at exactly the right time. They’ll push the rational, material understanding of the human body to its extreme and the unsuspecting sufferers of chronic pain the Western world over will stumble upon a wizard, get zapped by a mirror and have their minds and bodies and world’s blown open by the break in tension that has been building in them for all of time. The last bit is already happening but mostly in an unpleasant way for people because it breaks through force rather than conscious choice. Neuroscience is about the mind and because we have chucked the mind in with the brain and disregarded the body we can’t talk about it meaningfully. What I’m doing is essentially getting rid of a lot of neurological pain. But what I’m also doing is radically relaxing my body. I can feel the direct connection between the vibrations in my nose, my eyes, my mouth, cheeks and forehead and my fingertips and limbs and joints. I can feel how absolutely every part of me is connected and the effect that everything has on me. Every taste effects the spiral in its own way – sweet speeds it up and makes it smooth, but it doesn’t go deep. Bitter is so powerful the force nearly grinds to a halt whilst changing gear and then slowly gets every layer moving. Vibrations flood through my head and straight out of my face which is a concentrated version of exactly the same balance of relaxed and contracted tissue that is through my body. It is one continuous stream. My face represents my awareness of my body and that determines everything about me. And you too, I reckon.
In the Beginning
Our language reflects our every possible feeling and since we have become so numb we have become so dumb. The vocabulary we need exists in the world we haven’t yet created and the language that we use shapes us completely – it perpetuates the same vibrations, the same engagement with the body and the same unconscious split of tension. I think the particular sounds of our language create the similarities in people of a particular culture in their bodies and their actions – engaging those parts of the body and reinforcing the thoughts and feelings that are held there. Language really is just different kinds of sounds that engage different parts of the body. I don’t think the similarity between certain words like hear and heart, feel and heal, nose and noise, word and world, numb and dumb – even wizard and physio – are coincidental. I think they point to the simple rules by which we function. And the more complex our language the more complex are we. The more free our language the more free are we.
When I was learning the Sanskrit names for the yoga asanas in my very sensitive, melting state I would try to get the words out of my mouth but they wouldn’t come. The sounds and timing of Sanskrit (which is known as the Universal language from the Vedic culture of the Indian Subcontinent of the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE) use all the muscles – every word has the effect of expanding you. It pushes you out evenly. Since I can’t use any of my muscles symmetrically it’s very hard to get right. But when you have really slowed your mind down your mind wants to do things properly so instead of saying the word not quite right, I would be laughing and crying and groaning but no words would come out. Eventually, with focus and a bit of volume to overcome the tension inside me, I can do it. And when I do the sounds fit perfectly into this spiral and they give it strength and momentum and further relax me.
Earlier on in the figuring out of all of this I did a meditation where for fifteen minutes you listen to fast drums and shake your body as much as you can. I can’t shake very well because I can’t relax very much. After about ten minutes I desperately needed to shout. I was crying, basically screaming these words but my mind wasn’t satisfied – they weren’t good enough. I was jumping up and down, my body totally in charge of me, then eventually I yelled it out. “Get Off Me. Get Off Me. Get Off Me NOW.” When your body is relaxing so much and when this force inside you is so activated, you can do things you didn’t used to be able to do. Releasing those words would normally just be thought of as an emotional release. But when I shouted those words my face opened up in a new way. I was able to engage new muscles and simply because I felt the need in my body and mind to do it so badly that I could overcome my previous limitations – the same as what happened six months ago. It isn’t emotional or physical – it’s existential. It’s about how much of your body you know is there.
As I write these words the top of my head, my forehead, eyes, nose, ears, mouth, cheeks are spiraling with so much force I can’t keep up. I feel like strings being pulled so tight and the words will not stay still in my eyes. My head is twisted from one ear to the other.. and writing that caused the spiral to fold in on itself and then start an extreme unraveling of a new level. Every letter I type seems to tidy up a pixel in my face. Every typo gives away my lack of awareness. When I fix up an error very consciously a new part of my head relaxes – a tiny little piece of me that wasn’t there ‘til then. But that tiny bit of me is deep and as it spirals out its effect gets bigger and eventually it softens me a little bit. With every word I write, conscious of my head, the vibrations generated by me thinking of the word slowly travel outwards towards my ear. There is so much blocking it though – my eye and nose and most of my head. Every word I think of consciously relaxes me a bit. In fact it seems that absolutely everything you do, when you do it consciously, relaxes you – eating, drinking, zipping up a bag. The more you let go the faster you unravel. Riding on the back of a motorbike with my eyes closed and my hands gently out, weaving through traffic and cows, consciously absorbing the bumps and shakes through my whole body and trusting the person riding is going to keep me safe – that seems to be quite effective.
Language is so subtle though that to speak or think consciously you really have to completely rid yourself of your habit of speech or you fall into the same pattern in your body. For example to say the word “God” consciously engaging your whole throat or mouth as you say each letter – you can’t say “Gard” or “Gowd”. You can’t emphasise one letter over another, it has to be totally even, symmetrical and with the same effortless use of breath.
The bible says “In the beginning there was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. For some reason everybody decided that the Word referred to Jesus, the son of God. Could they not just have actually meant that the word was “God”? If there is anything special about humans its our ability to create such a wide variety of unique sounds and unique languages. “God” really seems to split you from the inside out, the ‘G’ coming from the back of the throat , the ‘o’ in the centre , the ‘d’ at the front of your face. The word expands you out but the way it finishes leaves tension. A lazy (unconscious) version of the same shape will still make the word but it will diminish it – it will engage less and less muscle over time, it will become shallower and less distinct.
I think this is our fall from grace. I think the split in tension in our language is the reason we’re in such deep shit. It’s the taking of fruit from the forbidden tree of knowledge. It’s Good and Evil. Awareness and Numbness. Its what makes us artists or it’s what makes us robots, it just depends which way we set ourselves in motion. The deeper into your core you create the sound the more you grow out softly as a whole. If the word goes out in one direction and stops suddenly right at the edge of you, you grow yourself apart, and if you do that unconsciously then you don’t notice the gap grow numb. Rational thought and emotional feeling have been stretched so far apart that the satire that is the modern world and the caricatures that rule it seem to be the only strings holding this shitshow universe together.
When we speak unconsciously all we do is make the same shapes we make all the time. We engage the same muscles over and over again and because these words become easier to make and new ones become harder to make it speeds up the pattern. Each word is less conscious, less whole, less distinct. And it seems like as these lazy shapes merge together our language becomes more meaningless and so does our way of life. George Orwell saw the decline in the English language as being self-perpetuating and believed it to be what made political insincerity – and essentially totalitarianism – so possible. “[The language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” They would normally talk about these patterns as being in the brain but language is our ability to engage our body, which is equal to our ability to feel. So we should stop separating feeling from thinking when we talk about how things are “good for the brain”. They are good for us. They are what we’re supposed to be doing because they make us feel.
If Descartes had been able to shut up a little longer, rest his patriarchal jaw ’til he’d let out all the tension (though it would have no doubt taken quite a long time), the words that formed on his lips or banged down the ends of his fingertips might have instead been “I feel therefore I am”. Notice how ‘think’ stops short but ‘feel’ goes on forever and in the face how ‘think’ slices through and ‘feel’ fills it out. We have made thinking and feeling into oppositional things and lifted the value of thinking above feeling, when in fact thinking belongs to feeling. Everything belongs to feeling.
This spiral that makes us live, or makes me live anyway, seems to work like a windup toy. When you breathe in gently the spiral winds up one way and when you breathe out more gently it uses the momentum to relax you more than it contracts you. When you don’t do that it does the opposite. But because it is a clever little spiral even if you’ve been getting it wrong for ages, the moment you breathe one gentle, conscious breath it does a subtle little change in direction deep inside of you and all the energy that you’ve saved in yourself through all the guilt and shame that this world creates gives it momentum and it sets out to relax you more than it contracted you. It’s the reason the difference between hope and despair is nothing but a choice. And it’s the reason that the more numb this world makes us, the more explosive it will be when the tension breaks.
If my episode hadn’t been triggered by accidental deep concentration I might not have had the awareness of myself to be able to deal with it. Instead I dealt with it, laughed, cried and sang myself through it. If my life as I knew it hadn’t totally collapsed I wouldn’t have had the freedom – or the sense of having nothing to lose – to pack up and let it guide me to a culture I knew almost nothing about that I knew with certainty could teach me to heal myself. If I hadn’t felt so empowered by concentrating myself a new hand into existence I wouldn’t have decided I never wanted to go to a therapist again and, immediately after calling her to tell her, I might not have had a reboot. Everything really does seem to work in perfect balance and the further you go one way the further you can go the other.
I knew when the thing happened in January it was going to distance me from people. My perception of the way things work is a bit altered and that scares some people. It’s a shame because from where I’m looking things are more beautiful now. There are people who I love who have dedicated their lives to healing people and with no qualification at all and nothing but a psychotic episode and three months meditation, I’m saying I think you’re doing it totally wrong. Well I do. And in fact I think you’re making it worse. I don’t think we should be getting so sick we need little vacuum cleaners to suck out infection from inside our fourteen year old heads, or that our hearts should need machines to keep them going. I don’t think we’re ever supposed to take a scalpel to our body. The desperation with which we cling to life shows us how far away we are from it. I don’t think most people with cancer could feel their way out of it, but if you did it I reckon it would mean you’d never get sick again – and you’d pass on good genes. I don’t think we’re supposed to be so numb we find ourselves with fourth stage cancer in the first place.
The cause of my pain runs through my whole body and mind but the fact that our medical perspective does not see the body and mind as a whole means nothing they did was ever going to help. I had my genitals operated on for no reason. I have a lump in my right armpit that hurts a bit and makes me sweat more – the dermatologist recommended quarterly botox injections- for life! I had a rash all over my body a few years ago during a particularly stressful time – it was the tension in my body breaking out when my mind could no longer absorb it. I was prescribed a series of toxic petroleum-based creams to smother over myself and my girlfriend. Honestly, it brings to mind the trepanning I learned about in school where they would drill holes in people’s heads in prehistoric times to let out the bad spirits. (Although if you survive it, it seems like trepanning would actually be more effective.) Then when I finally get rid of pain and begin to understand my body I am deemed manic and absolutely nothing I say is believed (“do you think her face looks different?” the GP says to my friend because they have lost all concept of subtlety both in conversation and physical change). I think every drug we throw at ourselves and every scalpel we try to fix a problem with will only make us number and more far away from our true selves and I think every experience we have as a patient or a victim disempowers us and makes us forget more deeply about the incredible power we have inside us. I can see the pattern so clearly and I can see that it doesn’t get us anywhere new. Only when the rational, dualistic, medical perspective on bodies completely and utterly implodes is when it will show us what health is.
We live in a superficial society so we are assumed to be superficial but we are not. We are deep as dark space. We’re the sum of everything that has come before us, so everything there is to know is in us. I think when we see imperfection we know deep down that it is a lack of awareness. We call it ugly. Consciousness is in us and it wants to come out.
When I commented on my wonky smile or ugly lump or having too much head for my face in a photo I would be told ‘shush you’re beautiful’ by a friend. Yeah yeah, beautiful and all, but what’s going on with my lopsided eyes? It’s apparently normal for one side of your face to be a bit different to the other. It’s also normal for women to be murdered by their husbands, for nation states to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people and for all our wild creatures to be going extinct. I don’t trust normal and I don’t think you should either.
If someone had suggested to me over these years of fungal infections, a year-long unbearably itchy rash, one random debilitating muscle pain experience, frequent and eventually normal feelings of nausea, period pains so extreme I’m sometimes shitting and vomiting at the same time, sore hips, toothache, a sore labia and pain down my leg when I have sex (but all in a way that I never felt I was a person with “health problems” – it’s just a part of being alive) that perhaps I should go meditate on my chakras, I would have probably wanted to slap them. But it’s all I ever needed to do.
I realised I am twisted after weeks of chakra meditation. You go up the body, focusing on the tailbone, then the pelvis, then the solar plexus, then the heart, then the throat, then the centre of the eyebrows, then the top of the head. When I got to my head I would start to feel so much pressure. It began to hurt a lot and pulsate but I thought I was relaxing so I didn’t know what to do. One evening it developed into what I imagine is a migraine. It was absolutely horrible. My head felt like it was going to explode. I was crying a bit but I was also laughing and shouting, I couldn’t hold the tension in. I said to myself, “okay mind, show me”. I was getting ready to re-live some awful experience but in front of my closed eye, like a comet traveling across a night’s sky, it sent a slow but steady ball of bright light out of my nose, across my face and into my right ear. I realised that as my face was relaxing and letting out more tension the muscles around my ears were totally contracted, so my head was filling up with energy but there was no more space for it. My whole face was wobbling with vibration through discombobulated skin (subtly noticeable from the outside but it felt like an earthquake on the inside). When I suddenly realised I have ears my head practically turned to water and my body commenced it’s slow but seemingly committed unraveling.
That’s the thing – it’s very hard to identify numbness but I’ve realised that where there is pain there is numbness. Notice the body. Notice the whole world.
This thing happening in my body is physical, mental and emotional. But its also about my awareness of my body in time and space and while we allow them to exist for scientists who are qualified to meddle in such things we don’t think time and space is something for a human body to be involved in. So people like me get to sound insane.
This force inside me is not me. And the way it moves in me is so strange. It is everything, it just depends how fast it’s moving. When I can let go it flows through me like light particles. It feels like stardust washing over my face and I can just relax and breathe. If it’s moving more slowly it is like a strange elastic alien life force. If it holds together it is okay – it flows gently and it is in perfect balance in how it moves. Sometimes it bobs on the bridge of my nose like a pendulum before it decides how to distribute itself. If it becomes discombobulated (by me contracting) at that speed it feels like eels, slugs, slime, snakes moving through me.
Sometimes there is what looks like a battle between two elastic snakey-octopus mind creatures that fill my head. One struggles to separate from the other while I struggle to just let this incredibly weird thing happen. The separation between them gets close and the loser starts to turn electric – I guess it’s the transition from a bodily pain to one of the mind. If I can stay relaxed the electric snake loses. It disintegrates from light to darkness but sometimes before that happens it has one last go of holding on – the mind doesn’t want to let go. I see it launching itself up again with a static arm outstretched before finally falling away if I can let it. It is like a desperate, angry electric hologram. It honestly feels like a battle between good and evil, life and machine (the subtle sounds coming from my head before structural collapse are unmistakably metallic). If it is moving very fast and then I start to contract and can’t release it’s absolutely horrible. My head becomes this vacuum packed crushed can, all sucked together and jagged-feeling round the edges. My ears feel clamped shut with the weight of the world. My skin feels so tight and there is the feeling of electric liquid through my head. When relief comes it comes in the form of these strange clusters of sharp shapes – they look like computer bits and come popping out of a part of my face with such regularity they are actually sometimes funny, like lemmings. Sometimes trapped energy transfers from my face to my tongue – it is a tiny, fast electric snake. It feels like a hair on your tongue that is moving that you can’t get off. It seems very obvious why people might be freaked out by slimey creatures and it’s not because they are so strangely foreign to us.
Really, this is wild. In fact I just got out of hospital today (medical not psyche). My face looks basically the same as before so nobody believes me but it really is collapsing. As energy gets released it starts to fill my body but I’m still figuring out how to engage the left side of it so a couple of days ago it got trapped through my chest and stomach. And you know why it happened? Because my left nostril got so tangled up in a high-speed electric octopus chase that eventually I just couldn’t figure it out and tried to go to sleep. It felt like my nose was in the most horrible, cold hard knot – just like when it felt stretched across the cosmos and since the nose centres the face and the face represents the body, my stomach became this solid knot as well. I couldn’t hold food or water down and was vomiting bile all through the night. My insides felt freezing cold and inflated unevenly.
I eventually checked myself into a $400 a night clinic with a comfy bed and had about ten litres of fluids put back into me. But my situation doesn’t have a place in any medical centre that can put a drip in you because they all stem from the same mindset. I told them more basically about the chronic pain and what had come from the meditation. “I can see that my body is twisted” I said. “Ah then, Mam, you need a psychiatrist”. “No, no, it’s actually twisted, I’m not imagining it” I tried. “Are you married Mam? Or do you have a boyfriend?” It all comes from the same place – the ever-narrowing perception and categorization of our bodily experience of life that is created by the male victors of history.
We don’t allow for how totally and utterly amazing we are. We are so scared of being alive that we drastically drop the standard for what that means and generally react with fear when people experience things that are unusual. Well someone’s got to because these men have made us out to be boring as fuck. Because we can’t prove the meaning of something in a clinical setting we have no way of attributing legitimate meaning to experiences of the mind – dreams, nightmares, trips, psychosis- they all seem to be different ways that the mindbody tries to let go of tension. We put them all into one box and leave it for the theorists. But we’re being really stupid I think because it seems clear that our mind is basically everything and it exists because we have a body.
This is what I’ve learned from meditating with a collapsing face that seems like it might apply to existence generally. Go as gently as you possibly can. Always go at the speed of the slowest one. Don’t force anything. Things get really bad before they get better. Don’t waste a single breath. Trust. Let go.
Brave New World
Having worked in social and environmental justice and experiencing an overwhelming feeling of it being ultimately futile (I know it’s not) and depressing I decided I should stop. It is full of good people who want good things for the world but it has already decided what that good world will look like. It will look similar to the one we have now but fixed up – fairer, cleaner, a stronger economy. I think often these people want the world to change so they don’t have to. There is ego, sexism, racism, greed; there is disrespect and arrogance. There is the fear that created the problem in the first place. I mean, there is career ambition in the poverty alleviation sector – that seems like a really major problem to me. If we want the world to change we have to be brave enough to not know what the new one is going to look like. We have to be okay with the idea that everything we do and think and believe might need to change and that everything we’ve created might be redundant. We’re trying to force a new world when instead it would just flourish before us the moment we learn to let go.
I think this contracting system runs in our blood. It’s been building through history, it moves through our genes and is programmed into our DNA. It’s in the food we eat and the water we drink and in the overwhelming and deadening sounds that vibrate off all the mind-numbing clutter we have filled this world with. The limitations of our language are our prison walls. We need to feel more in our bodies and be able to make more and different sounds and shapes in order to break out. We need to question every tiny thing because if we can go so wrong we are probably not doing very much right. The mindset that has created this system has created us and no matter how different our life is to the mainstream unless we are critical of our every pre-conceived belief our actions will only ever be reactions and our politics will never be radical.
This human-nature split those clever men came up with is not working at all. We need to become feeling animals again to bring down this deadening system. We need to know that we actually have all the knowledge and wisdom inside us, that our bodies know how to heal and that we know how to live. We need to let go. That’s why I find all the ‘theory of change’ in the social justice world so very painful – appealing strategically to different value systems: jobs, health, livelihoods – it just seems like a far too gentle way of making people feel something. We need catastrophic explosions of feeling. We need people to bare their hearts and souls and each of us need to remember more every day how amazing it is that we’re alive, because if we don’t respond to numbness with conscious feeling we’ll only get number. And we won’t fucking realise that it’s happened.
Does it not seem strange that “advancement” seems to happen at exactly the rate of how desperately we need answers – everything just gets further apart. Exciting new developments in the search for a cure for something that didn’t use to kill us; every single person we know available instantly at our fingertips but an epidemic of loneliness; the Individual risen up to the status of a God but extreme conformity prevails. Can we not see that the cure for cancer is the same as the cure for depression and its the same as the the cure for our Earth. My physio said I needed to teach my body that it is safe in order to get the pain out. I think that’s what we all need to do. We’ve tricked ourselves so well that we don’t allow for the possibility that our beliefs and values that have created a world that is imploding in on itself might also make a human body do the same. It seems like total madness.
We could be these expanding, beaming, highly sensitive, sophisticated cosmic artist-lovers. Or at least not these numb, broken, isolated bodies. And I don’t think it’s that we have made the wrong choice, I think it’s that we are failing to make a choice. We get driven by the momentum that has building up forever and we hurry on along with it trying to keep up, eventually accepting every new technological advancement as “inevitable” as though we have no control at all and always having to try harder to feel good to counteract the world.
After my reboot everything about the Western world seemed to be taken up to another level of ludicracy. The ridiculous Australian police who basically seem to act like very annoying rudimentary robots who want to fine me for riding my bike without a helmet; the boring jobs everybody has and moans about; the tension – stress, anxiety, rules, depression, ego – that fills our world; the way we speak and relate to each other – professionalism merging with insincerity, insincerity merging with dehumanisation; how we waste our time not even noticing that we are alive. I had energy and life felt precious. I decided I wanted to ride a thousand kilometres to a festival and people thought it was a bit much. “Why is she suddenly doing that? Seems a bit extreme.” I decided I needed to get on a plane to show someone how much I love them and people tut tutted. “You’ll only get your heart broken”. I decided I needed to go to Nepal and since it has the Himalaya I thought I’d go trekking. “Why is she suddenly going trekking around Everest, it’s the first she’s mentioned it. Is she okay?” Yes I’m okay (or I was until my face started collapsing). Are you okay? Or are you so scared to get run over, to fuck up, to get your heart broken, to start all over again that you play it safe and the clock just ticks away?
We know what we want and we know we’re not satisfied with the life our system permits. We know what actually makes us feel good and its the exact same thing that brings us health. We know that sickness is nothing but what we name it to be – dis-ease. We know that when things are twisted they have gone bad. We know that this system is killing us but we don’t acknowledge that it is actually the thing that’s killing us. We know that everything is energy and constantly changing but because we don’t feel it we don’t believe it. We know what to do. We have since we were collectively birthed as a single-celled organism. Our knowledge is written into our language and into our senses but we are not tuned in.
Apparently every animal on the planet knows how to release tension from it’s body except for us and the ones we put into captivity to keep us company (they do it by being relaxed and shaking it off – just like Taylor!). I’ve noticed in this ongoing process of relaxation that things we often think of as tensing aren’t supposed to be. When you jump at a sound when your relaxed, that’s your body reacting quickly to absorb the shock. When we squint at the sun when we are relaxed the gentle way in which we hold tension and the lightwaves from the sun relax us further. I’ve been using screaming toddlers and barking dogs to relax me. It’s only when we are contracting that these things contract us more. We have this incredible knowledge inside us that we’ve forgotten about. It’s been covered up by the climaxing bullshit of human existence but it demands to be remembered. It’s like the more completely insane this world becomes, the louder it calls.
Maybe we know we are monsters. Maybe we know that its our monstrousness that makes us beautiful and unique. Maybe we know that underneath all the layers of our potential awareness the self disintegrates and this whole weird computer game is over.
I remember the doctors saying my ear infection as a teenager was probably caused by bacteria at the swimming pool. I think it was words that hit my eardrum that my heart couldn’t take. With each one I flinched and held the tension in my left ear. It contracted and gradually became numb to protect itself. Pressure built up in the other ear and slowly over time my breath and my awareness got pulled to the right and it twisted my whole body – both materially and perceptually – until finally it got my attention. Our bodies are amazing but they want us to feel and this world and system and state of mind that we live in doesn’t want us to feel because the moment we do it will collapse.