Starting to Breathe, Part V

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

My Program

This thing i call my Program is an attempt at lifestyle design, an accumulation of things i’ve picked up from various approaches to personal development – mostly approaches based on the sort of self-help you find in the chain bookstores and on websites about productivity,

and even as i’ve been mulling over how to explain the Program i’ve been coming to realise that productivity- or achievement-based approaches to personal development are mostly bubkis, fraught with difficulties and maybe even doomed to failure,

tied up with the same old paradigm i am escaping from, a paradigm based on quantifiable outcomes, linear intellectual understanding, materialism and rationality.

For example, i use an iPhone app called Way of Life, a program designed for you to track progress in the formation of new (positive) habits or the dissolution of old (negative) ones.

Way of Life

At the end of each day you mark up how you went with maintaining your resolve to observe new habits or abandon old ones.

A problem with such an approach is you feel great if you maintain resolve but you feel bad when you relapse, and often the weight of prolonged or repeated relapse becomes more than is easy to bare and you lose hope and faith in yourself – because tracking your progress involves a sort of insidious awareness of where you progress has waned, progress and regression being two sides of the same cricket bat, the flat side knocking out sixes and the back side sending you into a spin.

This approach until now has been based almost entirely upon will power, with minimal attention on creating the personal conditions that will naturally undermine my desire to do that which my will can only force me to not do.

I am learning now that force is futile – it only takes a look around at the way we’re fighting for peace around the world to see that. Abstinence is only self-imposed force, force against a desire ocurring in you, and it creates only a sense of deprivation, which leads to yet more suffering, which may lead you straight back to those same mechanisms you’re abstaining from because they’re the only way you know how to hold your fragmented sense of self together.

What we need to do is move toward conditions where abstinence is no longer necessary because the desire has ceased to exist. The desire to fill ourselves up from without cannot feel like a need if we are full from within, charged and energised by spirit and love.

So i’m learning that i need to work on desire before i launch into yet another attempt at forced lifestyle changes – or perhaps i need to do desire work simultaneously with something like moderate abstinence, such as this idea of ‘down-toxing’.

And that’s what i’ll do here at Afroz – that’s the gist of it. That’s what i’ve been trying to get at with all this. Stay tuned for updates on the fits and starts.

* * *

There were cigarettes and beer, some whiskey sours and a couple of ouzos, followed up by an over-size souvlaki overflowing into hands. There was bubbling conversation about abandonment issues, the idea that ‘friends are god’s way of apologising for family’, a few shared tears upon realising the power to be responsible for life, to step up to the plate and stop blaming. There was a daily schedule of Osho meditations, sometimes ignored, sometimes revered, sometimes adhered to religiously, sometimes abandoned for the nudist beach and jumps from the six-metre rock in the middle of the Agean Sea. There are meals from the heart of Demetra, seasonal fruit and vegetables, so much watermelon. There was at least one instance of binge-eating employed as a separation strategy, a defense mechanism, a way of unconsciously blocking the way through pain to the light at the core. That’s also where the beers and the cigarettes came in, and halfway through the breathwork group, a devastating blockage, sensitivity lost. Then there was a detox attempt soon modified to “down-toxing”, soon modified to binge-drinking. That’s where the ouzo came in. The turbulence and the turmoil and the deep, utterly debilitating shame was too much to bare for then, but now: there is hope. Awareness has opened, and no behaviour is conducted outside this light. New horizons of being having appeared, along with means for journeying to them. There have been dietary changes, new areas of knowledge to explore: chakra systems; body awareness; bioenergetics; veganism; detox … soon there will be a big black shit in someone’s toilet, outside of me.

I have been experimenting with writing without reference to the ‘i’, to the ego, but it is proving difficult – it feels detached from reality, disembodied. To see where this started, follow this link.

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