Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Journey Begins

A few months ago, I was watching the Oprah Winfrey show. I am almost never home at that time of day, but I was sick and didn't want to read. Oprah started talking about her book club selection, A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle. She was announcing the online class that she was going to do with him for each of the ten chapters of the book and how she hoped that it would be the biggest online classroom in history. I was intrigued by the idea of a world wide classroom, dedicated to a book about finding... the inner world that each of us shares . Something about that idea completely hooked me, and suddenly I realized that I had been waiting for something like this to come along for quite a long time.

Because I was new to the spiritual quest, I decided to take it slowly. Only one chapter a week was going to be covered, so I would only read one chapter a week. That first chapter changed everything, although, at the time, I didn't know it. Reading along, I kept thinking that I was nuts for starting this. Tolle kept talking about 'ego' and 'labeling' and how the world was insane because of the collective lack of consciousness. He kept talking about how dysfunctional our minds are, and how thinking was a huge problem for the world. This was a huge problem for me! I am a thinker by birth, from a long line of thinkers. My whole life I have wished more people would think more often!

Despite my misgivings, something stuck in my head. What if he was right? I had been thinking all these wonderful things, and yet, for several years, I had grown increasingly dissatisfied with what my life was becoming. In tiny, sneaky increments, I had become totally separate from myself. Work was a place my body went to to do things for other people. My brain was raising my kids, but my desire was to be alone. Marriage had become this anchor that wouldn't let me sail out of port. I no longer read the books that had always been my great joy, and instead buried myself in mindless television and never missed an episode of "Extra" (I just loved seeing the stars fall from grace. Serves them right!). In other words, I had stopped showing up for life. Some days, I would start arguments with my husband just to feel alive (I still need to apologize for that)!

I was coming up hard and fast on a great truth- my mind had been running amok my whole life, telling me all kinds of lies and misinterpretations and falsehoods. My inner world was my own private cult and I was following the false prophet of my brain without reservation (amazing I never gave out flowers at the airport!). I was learning that the true me, the part I was born with, that had no societal overlays or patina, was being smothered by my out of control intellect in a manner similar to my partner choking on the couch right next to me without my noticing it because I was too absorbed in the TV. I needed to get myself in line.

I had no idea how challenging this would be. Had I, I doubt I would have started this journey.

As I continued to read the book, take the classes, and chat on line on the book club boards, I started to see myself much differently. I struggled with the sudden changes that made me feel as if all my internal organs had been removed from me and put back crooked. Strong opinions, intellectual pursuit, and convictions had been my cornerstones, and now I was learning that this seemingly strong foundation was in fact sinking in the sand. Becoming aware that most of what goes on in my head is the brain's version of Muzak was stressful, because, once I became aware of it, I had to work at quieting it down. Once things were quiet, I found all kinds of junk that had been covered up by the noise- and all of it needed to be dealt with.

Since that point, I have bumbled along, experimenting with meditation, finding other spiritual authors to read, discussing some of it with others (mostly online). I have had some dark moments- two weeks of depression a couple of months ago, periodic waves of anxiety dreams that seem to come in the period just before I have a breakthrough about something, and distancing from my old life and a lot of the people I love... There have been some amazing times, as well- learning walking meditations from Thict Naht Hanh, discovering the calm under the storm that to this point has been Adrienne, finding a deep appreciation for my family and the simple fact that they exist, and meeting some amazing people who have helped me to think more clearly (hopefully, some of them will post here soon!)...

My journey is just beginning, but already I can tell, it will never really end. As I 'see' more, I 'find' more. Maybe that is what the meaning of life really is- a life of learning to 'see' in order to live a life of 'finding'. Guess we'll all find out. Hopefully, together!!


derway said...

hello mamaaj.

You are such an inspiration. Your first story is very clear, thoughtful, and real.

Glad to be on the road with you.

But how does a person so young, know douglas adams and firesign theater so well?

HHGTTG is the height of human civilization to date!

peace beyond (un)happiness.


Adrienne Johnson said...

some things are timeless. Sometimes the answer really is '42'.


Bill Kalsee said...

Hi Adrienne,

You’ve probably heard my spiritual journey story before on Oprah’s chat line; but in case you missed it, I’ll try to recap briefly.

My mother’s from California and father’s from Alabama and I basically took after my mother more when it comes to spirituality and religion. My father basically was very fundamentalist and religiously strict, which caused me to feel guilty and unworthy. I had somewhat of an inferiority complex; however, I eventually rebelled and rejected organized religion for the most part.

In Hawaii, as a young submarine sailor, I eloped and married my current wife Carol, when she came over for a visit prior to my submarine leaving for my first underwater cold war patrol off the Russian coast…she was on crutches, from a snow skiing fall, and we were already engaged…the boat left five days later for a six month patrol…it’s been 38 years now and counting.

Of course, my first submarine run only lasted a month, as we crashed into a Russian submarine (read Blind Man’s Bluff…chapter 7, if interested), which resulted in us coming close to sinking and even recorded them sinking, which they deny today. I had many bad dreams after this and for up to a year after getting discharged.

Basically, I felt spiritually lacking in Hawaii (a very spiritual place for me) and we both took a course in TM (transcendental meditation…involved a mantra sound) which stuck with me but not Carol. She always wanted to go to church, which I did go along for her sake, and I always felt like meditation was all I needed; even tho I kept changing the procedure up to reach deeper levels. I’m a non-collectivist at heart and basically can be totally at peace and happy all alone if need be, but really do enjoy life and my family experiences.

I still don’t contribute to organized religions, but do work with those Christian organizations like Habitat and Family Promise (my wife brought to this county and involves helping homeless families) that I feel are in alignment with what Jesus’ life was about and what I feel inspired to do with my time.

I don’t know Adrienne, to me it’s been a slow, long term, journey to financial, spiritual, and family success and rewards…I’m 62 and been retired since 55 and I feel lucky, in good health, and happy to be alive and inspired by many things that keep me going and very interested in life…I’m never bored and can’t remember the last time I felt down? Even my dreams are good now, unlike back in the submarine days…meditation must work for me, but I’m sure it’s not the only way to connect spiritually…that’s for each of us to judge.