Starting to Breathe, Part III

a rambling five-part exploration of how spiritual healing must complement lifestyle changes that will facilitate spiritual healing – Part II is here

Turkey

I arrived in December 2013 on a three-week luxury bus tour with my mother. I am still here, seven months later – though i’m writing from Lesvos, a Greek island a few hours off the west coast of Turkey.

Leaving the Eden Hills sanctuary in Australia, i was worried that i would allow myself to be derailed from the progress i was making. So be it: in Istanbul i took up smoking again, stumbled in love and fell, and gradually plummeted back into despair.

I started drinking again, smoking weed … but in a new way. Even in my despair i knew that something had shifted when i was at Eden Hills – something had shifted in me and made way for the growth of self-love, which cannot co-exist with the sort of self-hate that had previously left me seeking oblivion in consumption and other external sources. I had resumed attempting to fill myself up from without, but i was more aware that this was what i was doing.

The relationship broke down as i accepted that external romatic love is just another thing i was eating, trying to fill myself up from without, when what i knew i really needed was a practice to cultivate self-love. We tried to be friends and walked some days on the Lycian Way together, but things broke down further in Kaş and we went our separate ways.

Pained by another cherished friendship jeopardised, i was alone again, and homeless, again. So i walked forth into homelessness and arrived at Çıralı, a lot sad but mostly happy and relieved that my pilgrimage had resumed. Another start.

In Çıralı i met a young Italian woman and an old Turkish man. We communed, and Maddy inspired me to travel back up the west coast to the Mount Ida region, where an Osho festival was being held. We had been talking about our respective practices, and i about how mine had waned. I said i couldn’t get back to Thailand until December, as though my practice is somehow dependent on place, which, to some extent, it is for now – i need/want to be in an environment conducive to meditation and the lifestyle practices that support the inner journey.

I have not yet cultivated enough of an inner sanctuary that will mean i can carry my practice with me wherever i go. Meanwhile i oscillate between strong practice, lackadaisical drifting and binge alcoholism.

Drifting is important, though. I was reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at the time, which helped me understand that sometimes drifting is a necessary part of our life process. I was drifting when i arrived at Çıralı, and i was drifting as i sat in Yilmaz’s beer garden, talking to Maddy and Özer.

The important thing about drifting is you eventually bump into something. I bumped into Maddy, and i bumped into her reply to my saying i couldn’t be in Thailand until December, which was the simple, profound question: “Why?”, a two-fold question: on the surface it meant Why can’t you go to Thailand now?; underneath it also meant Why can’t you practice now?

There are logistical reasons i can’t be in Thailand now, but there is no reason i can’t practice now.

So i went to the Osho festival, and from there i went to Osho Afroz in Greece. In Turkey we did a lot of daily Osho meditations and group sessions with various therapists, one of whom was Giten, a breathwork and trauma-release specialist.

In Greece we finished an eight-day course in breathwork training.

What i learned in the course is that i do not know how to breathe properly (gasp!); i have almost no inner connection with my body; i have much tension to let go of, and i am learning how to do so with breathing; my chakra system is in a sorry state of disrepair; i am disconnected from my core creative energy; i have many mechanisms for keeping myself separate from this core, from myself, others and the divine love of the universe; i am afraid of how i will feel without these mechanisms.

In the first days of the course i touched a deep sense of peace and joy, but for last days I felt utterly terrible, deeply ashamed.

I have learned that when i connect with and accept the trauma that has lead to the development of such mechanisms i begin to heal, but that healing is often painful. It feels trite to say that we must go through the darkness to get to the light, but i feel that is a fundamental truth of self-healing. As Florence Welch says, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

 

For a long time before this i didn’t know what i was afraid of. I thought i was not afraid of anything, except that i’ve long said that my greatest fear is the fear of regret, the fear of not living up to my true potential. Now i understand that i am afraid of feeling my pain, which seems reasonable.

But i guess actually it’s my ego that is afraid of me feeling its pain, and that actually my core has no fear, or pain. But i have difficulty contacting my core, so for now, until i am cultivating the capacity to be at one with my core, i feel adrift when i remove those mechanisms that help me feel connected to something, anything, even if that something is a cigarette dangling from my lips and a beer fused to my palm.

But but but and yes, understanding these mechanisms is key to escaping from them. Without understanding them i merely try to abstain from behaviours that i believe are bad for me, but all the while i cling to them: abstinence mixed with attachment equals deprivation/separation, which means pain, suffering.

So now i’m searching for some other means to move away from self-destructive behaviour. That’s what i mean when i say i am embarking on an experiment.

Part of the experiment involves training myself to look to the moment for the opportunity to live anew, to not wait for tomorrow, for some ideal time, place, environment. If i wait for tomorrow it will never come, we all know this. I may as well spend the rest of my life watching kettles boil.

But i have awareness of this now, and that’s a start.

I have awareness that i am attached to things that were holding me together from without because my internal resources feel too underdeveloped, too fragmented. My internal conditions are not sufficiently nourished to encourage the growth of a flourishing self.

So i want to start doing this. Another start. I want to start shedding my harmful (false) external resources, because if they are harmful they are not really resources – they have the illusion of being resources, but actually they are false props.

I know from experience that simply shedding these props leaves me feeling adrift and meaningless if i don’t replace them with real resources, internal and external.

And i don’t mean this leaves me drifting – feeling adrift is different from drifting: drifting is when you’re tapped into the flow of the universe, the current of life; being adrift means you’re just floating, not moving anywhere. Imagine if you woke up one day in the middle of the ocean – that’s the physical equivalent of the metaphysical state of feeling adrift. Needless to say, if you are left adrift in the ocean for too long, you die.

So i need to manifest a life buoy – a reliable external resource. I want to resume my Program again. But first, a tangent.

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