Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Thank you so much for writing back! I would be very happy to chat to you via email. You were mentioned in the BATGAP interview with Andrew Harvey: https://batgap.com/andrew-harvey/
About 5 years ago in 2011 I had an experience of a permanent shift in consciousness and a change in my perception of reality. This came out of nowhere. I was not a "seeker". I had dabbled in yoga and meditation (TM) but just as "lifestyle" interventions - exercise and stress relief etc. However at the time this shift happened, I had been through a lot of traumatic life experiences (divorce, cancer in the family, loss of my business, moving house) all at once and it seemed to result in what I thought at the time was some sort of dissociative depression. One day I seemed to "wake up" and realised "oh my God, I EXIST. What is this? Why am I here? Why is no one talking about the fact that this (reality) is happening?" All of a sudden I had seen reality in a different way and I could not "un-see" it from this perspective (no matter how much I tried). I became convinced that life was a dream, pointless, meaningless, that everyone who was concerned with "everyday" matters was an idiot, and all I wanted was to die. Everything started to look "weird" to me. Humans looked strange and odd, nature seemed incredibly miraculous. I realise now that I was seeing things in a more "objective" way, without the usual conditioning and judgments.
This did not pass, and eventually I started taking an antidepressant, and things shifted, but never went back to normal. I stopped being depressed, but the new way of seeing things (as unreal/alien) never left. It was as though I had this "zoomed out" perspective of life. I was observing it, but no longer "in it". While I started to feel better and healthier on the medication, I still felt a great distance from the old "me" personality. I continued to think this was dissociation due to traumatic events that may just never resolve. I felt very different, but just "got on with it" as best I could.
When I started on the antidepressants and my mood improved, another interesting thing started to happen. I started to have experiences of extreme bliss and "knowing", where information about how to live life (I don't know how else to describe it - maybe universal truths/moral ideas) would just come to me in a "download". 4 years on, I now recognise these "truths" as statements from Vedic thought. At the time I didn't know what Vedanta was. I'd read a few new age books, but my background was in psychology/science/business. I had a few experiences where I felt that I was very connected to those around me and I was able to approach people and situations with a new sense of joy and love. These were only temporary and passed quickly.
Life continued as "normally" as it could but unfortunately things took a turn with my health and the depression returned. I decided to stop taking the antidepressant medication and things got way worse. "Bad" things kept happening in my life. It felt like everything was fallign apart. I was losing everything I knew to be true and "mine". My moods would swing like crazy, and I developed problems with chronic fatigue. I was sick and utterly exhausted. Eventually it led to a type of nervous breakdown. I stopped working for a period and focused on "getting my health back" by trying all sorts of natural remedies, cleanses, diets, energy healing etc. I now recognise that I was in a "dark night of the soul".
This is where things started to get interesting. In 2013 I met a man in the natural health "scene" (I was hanging out at vegan cafes, doing cleanses, trying all the physical diet stuff to heal myself) who introduced me to a husband and wife who were energy healers (crystals etc.). There was something about the husband that drew me in. I felt so happy and content (and not depressed!) around him. He didn't even have to do anything. Within a few minutes of being in his presence, I would feel better. I became friends with a few young guys who also felt this way when around. We'd hang out at their shop (run by his wife) and go out to dinner with them sometimes. When I was with them I had so much energy. I could stay up all night. I also started to have some weird experiences (more extreme bliss states, sleeping problems, psychic experiences, "seeing" energy move, feeling like I was "in love" and in states of ecstasy, doing weird hand gestures).
The guys and I felt kind of like his disciples (but he asked nothing of us; he just told us to "be ourselves". He gave no teachings and asked for no money). I felt a very strong connection with the other guys and one night I had a psychic feeling/vision that we had all been in a past life together around the time of Jesus Christ. The next day, the "teacher" told me out of the blue (we were just sitting in silence together at his shop) that my experience the night before was correct and that I was there at the time of Jesus Christ - that we all were. He said that he was the reincarnation of Jesus. I still don't know what to make of this. I don't know if I believe in reincarnation. I do however think that this man might be the closest thing I have ever seen to a saint.
Unfortunately these blissful moments and states were still all temporary and I would eventually come crashing back down to earth (and become extremely depressed) when confronted with "the real world". I developed an intense interest in spirituality (this is when I discovered the term "seeking") and felt bored with most people and topics other than spirituality. I felt disconnected from my old friends who didn't share these experiences with me. I oscillated between feeling ecstatically happy and content when in my spiritual "zone" and suicidally depressed when forced to go back and face the "real world" where I no longer fit in. I swung between believing that I was in spiritual crisis (it was the world that was wrong, not me) or that I was mentally very sick and needed to be medicated (I had depression and chronic fatigue/chronic pain).
Eventually this merry-go-round of ups and downs completely exhausted me and I decided that I had two choices: either leave Western civilization and become an ascetic or go and seek medical treatment for the depression and fatigue and try to re-join "normal life". By this point (2015) I had become very isolated, doing a minimum amount of consulting work and seeing very few people, other than my "spiritual" friends (even then I had periods of depression where I was not well enough to see them). I felt good around my teacher/friend, but I couldn't spend my whole life hanging out at his shop and drinking tea. It wasn't an ashram and he was not taking on formal disciples! haha. I think his wife was starting to get a bit annoyed by this group of young seekers who didn't have enough money to pay for "official" healings (that was their business after all). But the "teacher" didn't seem bothered by it. His wife was the one who organised the business and their livelihood (And fair enough - they had to pay rent).
In mid 2015 I decided to seek medical treatment for the depression and had rTMS therapy and went on a tiny dose of Prozac (10mg per day). By the end of 2015 I was feeling much better. I started a romantic relationship with someone I have been very close with for a long time, we moved out of the city to a beautiful house with lots of land and started a quiet, peaceful life with lots of yoga, healthy food and time in nature. In late 2015 I discovered BATGAP and Vedanta literature and it felt like FINALLY some of the pieces of the puzzle of what has happened to me have started to come together. I recognise that I have had a spiritual awakening and change in consciousness. Although I don't know that I would call it kundalini as I never felt the energy surge through the spine etc.
Now, half way through 2016, I am still processing the changes in consciousness that have occurred. The world still feels very "unreal" to me. I have lost sense of time. I need to spend a huge amount of time alone and in silence. When I feel "well", this is all ok. I feel at one with the universe, I can easily manifest things that I desire, everything is in flow. However I still have periods of feeling overwhelmed by it all. This generally happens if I have to spend too much time "in the world". I lose my connection to God. I become terrified that I live in some fake computer simulation. I feel there is something missing because I can't feel connected to friends in the way I used to. I no longer share their concerns about the "day to day" world and get bored and easily tired when socialising. I don't desire things in the same way I used to (this is positive, but it also means I am not as ambitious as I used to be). I don't really feel that I am the same "me" anymore. The personality/consciousness shift has been so huge that I don't feel like "my old self". In some ways I feel more like I did as a child - genderless, non-sexual, just a "being". I still have remnants of my old personality, but I am not attached to things in the same way I used to be. I have absolutely love reading Vedanta literature - reading Swami Vivekanda and Swami Rama Tirtha can make me feel so uplifted and pull me out of moments of despair. This is funny as I was never religious as a child or adult! I am 35 now. (although as a child I was very interested in the occult, ancient Egypt and mysteries etc.). As an adult I was into the corporate world - making money and travelling and shopping!
So I am left feeling this - what am I supposed to do now??? I am no longer able to really function normally in the "real world" without having episodes of fatigue and chronic pain (if I spend too much time working or with "normal" people I will need to sleep for 12 hours to get over it!). However I do not want to renounce it all and become a monk or a nun. Is there a way to integrate into a new way of being that isn't so tiring? I continue to oscillate between periods of feeling great (work goes well, everything is in flow, I feel connected to God) and periods of feeling flat (work stagnates and becomes difficult, I am physically exhausted and in pain, I feel empty and flat).
I feel that I need some sort of purpose, but at the moment life just feels like Groundhog Day - a ride that never changes and that I can't get off of. I feel disconnected from other people because it's like everyone sees the world as being red, and I see it as being blue. I feel like there's a giant elephant in the room that only I can see and it drives me nuts! I only know one other person who has seen the world the same way I do, and he has chosen to spend most of his life in isolation as a hermit. I would prefer not to take this path but at the moment I feel like I am stuck between two options that I am not keen on - "faking it" in the normal world (exhausting) or renouncing it all and becoming a hermit. Is there a "middle way"? For me, it requires so much physical effort and energy to try to live this middle way.
Wow - I have just written an essay for you. I hope some of this makes sense. Any advice you could give me would be wonderful!