Can you tell the STATES (of your body-mind) from their SPACE (of consciousness)?
Are you still intellectualizing away or worse spiritualizing the fact that you are holding back?—I certainly do. That’s what I’s supposed to do.
All my life I’ve been trying to soften the blow of the truth. I’ve been putting tremendous emotional pressure on myself to spare others [and myself] from the pressure of dealing with the truth of my preferences and haphazard impulses. I was in a chronically contracted state almost all the time, in a desperate attempt to apply tourniquets on the leaky fabric of the truth of the moment. I’ve been both emotionally and metabolically constipated—conditioned to be agreeable and to seek compulsively to please and to act as a cushion and act as a buffer and pamper and therefore resent others. I’ve been routinely putting myself down and letting myself be bullied into being a resentful victim or occasionally the unwitting perpetrator of passive aggression. In short, I choose to be weak to reassure the weakness in one another. /Until the day I got truly tired of it.
Do you still feel (the feeling of feeling) terrified when your symptoms flare up? Do you still think there is a (right) way to (do things to) avoid the next episode that is already stalking you?
Are you still fixated on resolving your issues and escaping your symptoms once and for all? Are you still fixated on doing it the right way? Are you still working on the project of transcending the broken version of your self (that is at the mercy of the stressor-ridden contingency called its environment)?
Do you still buy into the idea that it’s not as safe over there as it is over here? Or, in other words, that the world is over there and you are over here?
Do you still refuse (to play the game of) life?
Syncing with the body or the practice of letting my body take over and render me headless
/This is my longest post to date in which I look at and connect some strands and trends in my life up until this point, right before turning 33. The common thread that’s running through this retrospective is the story of getting lost and confused within the reverberant echo-chamber of my head and finding my way out through relaxing more and more into my bodily impulses/
Recently I’ve made a huge discovery which is less a discovery than a remembering, I think. Listening to lots of Adyashanti tapes in the last couple of months has definitely played a big role in accelerating all this…
Meditation comes to me—I find. What’s more, it’s stalking me and slowly creeping over me, spontaneously and stealthily, it’s gradually overwhelming me. Nowadays, I find myself feel compelled to sit down and let my bodily stirs take over, to become headless as it were. I especially like to do it outside somewhere in the sun with my eyes closed and attending aurally (to the surrounding sounds) first. By easing into a grounded state of stillness where I am more cognizant of the subtle stirs in/of and around my body I know I am onto something essential.
My stretching and mobility routines evolved in a similar fashion, actually. I’d been dabbling in yoga for quite a while before I gained any inklings about what type of stretching actually work for me. For years, I was doing headstands and other top-intense postures but totally out of sync with my body. No wonder I barely ever felt revitalized by it. I was stretching everything I thought would benefit me without regard for what my body actually required. In fact, it’s been only around a year ago that I started to attune to its actual needs—which is literally working my way from the bottom up. I remember one sunny day in the garden accidentally discovering (by rotating my hips while leaning my torso in different angles) a tight muscle in the right side of my lower back, which presented me with a clue to follow. Ever since that discovery I’ve been conscious of aligning from the body rather than the head, by simply bringing more attention to my sensations. As a result, I have also recognized how intricately things hang together in my body. My fallen arches and popping knees, my lopsided gait as well as my slightly protruding gut and buttocks had all been related and kinetically linked. My abdominal muscles have played a key role in bringing my crotch out of its dysfunctional sunkenness, so to speak, to which functional training (with kettlebells, barbells, clubbells and foam rollers), Scott Sonnon style mobility drills and a short run in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu contributed a lot (by helping me develop significantly stronger core strength).
In short, discovering and corrective stretching against non-negligible musculo-skeletal asymmetries (neuromuscular traumas) that I have acquired/nurtured since a long time ago has also stealthily taken over me—I find.
So this is my huge discovery. Healing processes converge and con-spiral in the context of awareness. All it takes is noticing. Such a nobrainer—literally. I notice something and then I follow its lead. For a very long time I’ve been doing just the opposite: trying to do things from the neck up, from the head (hooked on fancy tips and ideas) out of sync with my body, disregarding its actual needs, impulses and appetites.
Now, if you are interested, here follows a short overview of other areas this has taken place in my life:
Growing up, I turned out to be quite a heady persona which was aggravated by the vague and subconscious but more and more intense confusion I felt as I was drifting away from the idyllic site of my childhood. Secondary school, university, working as a language teacher, PhD studies, moving to the capital, losing my girlfriend, living and working with people from all walks of life—with every new stage it felt like I was putting my life on a stronger and stronger hold, I was kind of suspending everything, subconsciously, waiting, in essence, for my past in some form to return in the future. I’ve pulled away from people in the present to prepare for those in the future who I think truly belonged in my life (like the people in my past I felt did).
Over these drifting years—spent in the spirit of disorientation—I have developed and resolved (as well as aggravated already present, probably congenital) mental & health challenges: a sluggish liver and sluggish bowel movement, migraine headaches, facial skin problems, low libido, a milder case of social anxiety/paranoia, excessive introspection & intellectualism, etc. In tandem with these failing conditions the more and more intense confusion that I was subconsciously experiencing drove me to clutch an ever tighter conceptual grasp on things, which, in fact, only (re)generated that confusion. In my 20s I became a truly head-heavy fellow. (Certainly, there is some basic susceptibility behind all of this. Things typically tend to come to a head with me. Unchecked tension and poorly managed stress bubbles up into my head and presses against my whole being from the top down as it were.)
A couple of years in PhD studies (literary theory) nicely complemented my heady escalation. I became an avid reader of literary theory, philosophy and cognitive science. I wanted to solve an Aesthetics puzzle that was growing in scope by the day. In essence, the same symptom has surfaced as in my teaching career I wrote about here, namely that I couldn’t just do it like a professional: impersonally. For me it had to be about the Truth. And part of the Truth, of course, was that I was conflicted inside as a person. So I was trying and trying but to no avail. I amassed an impressive but rather sketchy overview of intellectual history in my head, and even though in the back of my (hanxious) mind I knew that I could never cobble together the Truth from tesserae of theories and fancy ideas, I had no clue how much I was actually spinning in endless circles. To be honest, though, I really enjoyed most of the stuff I’ve read during these years, some of them truly fascinated my eager mind, but I had to give up the whole PhD thing because I was just plain lazy to put in the work in the end.
Falling in love and trauma-bonding with a girl didn’t help matters either. As a matter of fact the majority of my ailments arose within the context of our relationship. For 8 years we have been silently suffering from feeling smothered (her) and abandoned (me) respectively and when finally she broke up with me (on the wings of a new romance) I finally reached a tipping point. Since that pivotal moment the light has been seeping through the cracks, to wax poetic, ever more intensely and my body began to stir under the debris of my fragmented ego.
During the recovery I still got lost in the head a lot, of course. There were short-lived flare-ups of love-sickness with other girls and—to complement one extreme with another—short and rather innocent episodes of pick up artistry (gaming) as well. Slowly and with the help of online mentors I managed to come to my senses regarding intimacy and relationships, though. As a matter of fact what I’ve learnt from people like Owen Cook, Alan Roger Currie, David Deida, Alex Allman and Roosh V. were things that I already knew in my heart of hearts, but I may never have summoned the courage to take ownership of them were it not for these men. In a way these people empowered me by going against the grain of their ego themselves. In short, what they taught me to cultivate was transparency (to my heart-felt impulses).
/Incidentally, looking back I can see how tight a game I actually had before learning about game. That’s how I managed to ’’get’’ my girlfriend in the first place: I was just perseverant (and turned on I guess) like never before. I was all in—win or lose—and her months-long resistance just buckled under my zealous but seemingly cool-headed advances. After the break-up when I learnt about game through a random YouTube recommendation of one of Owen’s videos, I started experimenting with manipulating girls by exaggerating my confidence and cockiness (which, given my profession as a teacher, wasn’t that hard to pull off). Frankly, it was quite intoxicating because usually it really did work, and though I never went all the way, I managed to create many leads and witness how much girls tend to fall for certain vibes. But then I noticed that I actually became gimmicky and contracted in the manner in which I engaged women. I was putting on an act really (—now, just imagine the type of relationship that would come of putting on an act to get it going: luckily I skipped that phase). In fact, looking back I can see now that most of the girls liked me despite my game and not because of it. Before my gaming period the romantic flare-ups, in fact, were all due to girls being drawn to my simple, innocent and naive naturalness. But there the problem typically was that I felt an obligation to reciprocate and I practically forced/hypnotized myself into things I didn’t actually want. What game helped me with was to come to my senses and see and exercise the courage to own what I truly want and drop what I don’t. [Ironically too, I finally saw (in retrospect) how many girls actually did want to get involved with me over the last decade while I was busy convincing myself that I was unlucky with them. I ignored all their indirect invitations and passively rejected all of them only because I was afraid of the unforeseeable repercussions.] At any rate, I think I have come full circle now: I have come out of my head enough to see romance for what it is.
It is what it is.
So come what may, I don’t care any more: Transparency trumps all. ;)/
Another front where I got dragged down an endless rabbit hole was diet. Again, I came upon some exciting notions on YouTube (via Sean Croxton and his channel UndergroundWellness) which gave me some ideas as to what to try to help my girlfriend who was experiencing eating problems at the time (shortly after we moved in together). Indeed, her stomach was a perfect barometer of the level of anxiety we were marinating in. So besides eliminating gluten and sugar and vegetable oils I introduced her to the idea of the GAPS diet (Natascha Campbell) which soon was tempered with the less restrictive palette of the PHD diet (Paul Jaminet). We did it together hoping that soon she would feel better but what actually happened was quite unexpected. Her condition worsened to the point where she had to be referred to a facility to recover while my condition improved a great deal. My migraines were gone and I literally felt as if a fog has lifted off from my brain. Naturally, I got zealous again—right around the time I lost interest in my academic pursuits—and I started supplementing and seeking superfoods. I got a second-wind, so to say. Finding information online about health and nutrition became a newfound obsession and in tandem with the nutrition stuff I also bought into the whole lifestyle spiel. So, I was on track once again, trying to find the best information out there in order to upgrade myself on all fronts: nutritional, social, sexual, financial, etc. I even fell for that bulletproof hype for a while, subscribing to their quarterly box as well when I could barely afford such unnecessary luxury.
I think all of this low-key frenzy really culminated when my girlfriend came back to her senses in that facility she spent almost half a year and resolved to break up with me in January 2013. My head just couldn’t take it any longer. Something cracked. And that’s when the light started seeping through.
In retrospect it’s rather conspicuous how I tend to lend my focus and energy to certain projects and get fixated on them until they fail to yield the completion or the sense of coming home I was secretly hoping for. There has been a sequence of boom-bust cycles being iterated with less and less intensity from around age 16. Today, at least, I feel in between. My center of gravity has descended to somewhere between my head and my gut.
I’m still watching what I eat but less strictly. Inspired, for instance, by Ray Peat’s perceptive tips (eat for heat) I gave up some practices that didn’t seem to work: I stopped intermittent fasting and avoiding sugar. On the spiritual front too I’ve also gained crucial anxiety-resolving insights, nevertheless I still try to solve interpersonal glitches from the place of a self in control. As a matter of fact, my obsession with the Truth (á la Adyashanti) is the latest incarnation of the boom-phase and in a way it has been the governing obsession underlying all the others, I think. The difference is that now I know and own it. I’m in it but not consumed by it: I’m somewhere in between. Whether there is a beyond to this in-between stage I don’t know and I don’t care that much either, to be honest. Right now, this is where I’m at. And that is all that matters.
The way I see it: Our body has so much more to say than we’re willing to give it credit. All problems arise once we start executing ideas we entertain in our (socially conditioned) mind rather than relax into the truth of the moment and follow its lead as it ripples through our whole being, top to bottom. To live a (mindful) life worth living we must (re)learn to speak the language of the stars that the body speaks.
Reflecting on the decade of abuse I’ve unwittingly inflicted upon my body by not listening to what it actually needs—what nutrients it seeks to ingest, what movement and breathing patterns it seeks to express, what relationships it seeks to engage and disengage from, etc.—I realized how my mind has acted like the burly character Lennie from John Steinbeck’s novella Of mice and men: with good intentions but ill proportions, full of excitement and enthusiasm, strangling what it fancies to death as it were. Much like Lennie our mind (by socially conditioned default) is enamored of fluffy things at the expense of the real things to the point of outright abuse
I drifted awake at around 1.30 last night and strangely enough I felt rested as well as mildly restless at the same time. In fact, I felt compelled to move out of bed, to occupy myself with some ’’productive’’ distraction but I decided to stay put instead and relax against the grain of the compulsion which indeed proved increasingly intense. As I lay there I began scanning my body and soon I detected a strong tension around my neck. No matter how deep I cushioned my head into the pillow I literally felt that I had to hold my head with my neck muscles to prevent it form falling to the right side. It was a weird sensation I felt that if I just let go my head would snap so violently to the right that my brain would scramble in my skull. Like the hilt of hefty sword my neck felt like tensed up into a fist and hard as I tried to convince myself I just couldn’t get myself let go. In the end I resorted to shoving my face into the pillow repeatedly and forcefully pushing the top of my head against the bedpost as well as pummeling my skull with my fist before jamming it (my fist with knuckles protruding) right between my head and the pillow. Only when I propped my head up in such fashion did I feel that I could relax my neck. Curiously, this whole sensation of holding my head felt vaguely familiar, and I started to spin theories about why excessive (poorly managed) stress (stimulation) tends to manifest in the form of headaches, why I am subject to dizziness, why my head feels under so much pressure during take off (by a plane)—was I accidentally dropped as a child? or does it have to do with a neural lock-down since that incident when I crushed my skull (in my teens I was sitting on the ledge of a concrete tub at my grandmother’s when somehow I lost balance and fell backwards hitting the bottom with the back of my head)? I don’t know. All I know is that whenever I don’t feel at peace in the moment I must relax until I do. I must let my body tell me where it is holding back and I must follow the tosses and turns and stories it tells.