Tuesday, August 29th - almost 9 months since my return to the US. Almost 9 months since enacting my decision to come back and strive for home, almost 9 months since my surrender to reality that was also my triumph over my long-standing pattern of disassociation.
My epic journey of self-realization was not what I thought it would be. Nor was my return, nor has my new life been since coming back.
In 2011 I left Chicago on a hunch, on an intuitive pull towards the unknown with a heart full of hope and head full of half-baked ideas about destiny. In 2012 I left for Australia, having been graciously invited to participate in a $25,000 training program on the agreement that we would work it out and I would pay when I could.
I went for so many reasons, not all of which are knowable, not all of which are worth analyzing. I went because I felt broken. I went because I was suffering from PTSD, (although I didn't realize it at the time) and sensed that the form I was studying offered a way forward. I went because I needed to be around a teacher who had ascended Maslow's hierarchy of needs up through self-actualization, and I needed to know what that looked like, felt like, sounded like... I needed to know it was possible.
I went because no matter what anyone else said to me, my life had never felt real. I had never felt fully in it, had never felt completely invested in the reality of my day-to-day existence in a way that trumped the potency of my soulfull imagination.
What I learned: I learned you can't neglect the needs of the body and live on spirit alone. I learned that chronic bouts of weeping, migraines, and acute social anxiety are not indications of communing with a higher power, they are symptoms of PTSD, extreme isolation from friends, family, and community, and chronic stress over not being able to meet your basic needs. I learned being broke all the time sucks. I learned that sustainable self-actualization and regular creativity are impossible (for me, anyway) when I don't have anywhere to live. I learned that spiritual fulfillment is not found in the clouds or in solitary prayer, but in the trenches of daily life and the mundane regular of our most prosaic relationships. I learned that borrowing money from friends is terrible for my self-esteem. I learned I can't do it alone, that what I thought was a call to 'prayer' (a.k.a. 'weeping') was often low blood sugar, and tat the small kindnesses of strangers mean everything when you feel alone.
I learned that when you feel alone, someone reaching out means everything. I learned I can't live on just a dream, and more importantly that dreams are not realized in one instantaneous moment of tremendous effort - dreams are extended through the patient tending of a lifetime.
I learned that there are men and women in te world who has risen through the ranks of what it means to be human until they have reached a level of sustainable, creative self-actualization and are spending a significant amount of their time in a flow state in such a way that it benefits those around them... I learned that safe challenges are helpful in reaching in this point, so that mistakes can be made without the whole thing collapsing around your ears. I learned I want to be one of those people.
I thought I was fulfilling some grand calling - I thought that to GO was the act that would transform me into someone who would then return (or not) and live out my purpose.
What I've learned since coming home: Making $14/hr (or less) is hard. Getting $189/month from the government for food is helpful. Nannying is hard work when you really try to do a good job, and there's days when I feel as if I'm doing an absolute shit job of being a care provider. I've also learned kids are unexpectedly resilient, and that O probably haven't screwed them up too badly.
I've learned that being in a relationship with someone who is different than you is a constant challenge - it's temptingly easy to bond with someone who supports my pre-exsisting patterns instead of challenges them.
While I was in Australia and I was running on dream-fuel, I imagined that every day was charged with supernatural significance. I poured my heart and soul into the TaKeTiNa training, and achieved levels of self-actualization (musical proficiency) I had never even come close to before. I believe I did this in a remarkably short amount of time, possible only because of the intensity level at which I was living. The experience of feeling into my own potential in that way was profoundly satisfying at a level of my being that runs far deeper than any needs of the body.
Simultaneously, I was stressed and depressed. Living my life at such a high intensity level took a toll on my mentally, physically, and psychologically. Although in many ways I healed old wounds, I also re-traumatized myself. I was feeding my imagination massive doses of sufi poetry (and other esoteric writings) on a daily bases and attempting to systematically dismantle my ego-self while homeless, jobless, and community-less - not the best conditions to achieve self-realization.
Since coming back, I have turned my attention to those needs lower on Maslow's hierarchy: job. Community. Sex. Companionship. Responsibility to others and recognition of meeting that responsibility. In the 9 months since coming back I have made a lot of progress in all of those areas...
...and yet my creative self-actualization moments have dwindled. Spending so much of time investing in 'career,' (laughable to call my 3 jobs at $14/hr, $16/hr, and $18/hr a career, and yet they are the start f mine I suppose) my relationship with my partner, trying to build community, etc., has not only reduced the amount of time I have available to put towards creative practice, it has watered down the quality of the willpower I'm able to summon when I do sit down in front of the instrument.
There are nights when I'm telling myself to practice because I know it's what I want, and yet instead I end up watching NetFlix. My mind is full of images of people who have had a clarity of purpose from an early point in their lives and have pursued that purpose with dedication... images of men who inspire me. Reinhard Flatischler. Ido Portal.
My mind is likewise full of sobering thoughts about our current collective environmental/economic situation, and I wonder about the likelihood of ever making enough money to pay for the training I received, much less continue to study the work I want to do? New-age dogma nonwithstanding, more people today are out of work, broke, bankrupt and homeless then there were 10 years ago. Our debt has grown. Social services have not kept up. American quality of life has decreased, and by all appearances will continue to do so. I look at this and wonder: "Does it even make sense to try and participate in this mess?"
And yet, I have made progress: next month I'm moving into a movement-based house with 6 other people, essentially co-founding a somatic arts-based community. 9 months in my parter and I are still together, which (despite my ever-present resurfacing doubts) marks the most successful romantic relationship I have ever had. I'm about to become a HS fitness instructor, a job I would not feel sufficiently qualified to take on were it not for the abysmal job done by so many people already in that position. I'm also a social mentor for people on the autism spectrum, and although the organization I work for is far from the cream of the crop that position marks a step up on my resume.
When I left, I imagined the world was misguided and I was right... I imagined I would fix it. By going, I learned I was misguided. There's a very good chance that the world (by which I mean humanity as a collective) is too, but I'm not sure I'm entitled to make that judgement call.
When I left, I thought that if I could only touch what Rumi touched when he wrote his poems, then everything would be ok. By going, I learned that just because I can touch that doesn't mean I understand how to help someone else. Just because I can touch that doesn't guarantee that I'm going to be a good partner, or care provider, or fitness instructor, or social mentor. Just because I can feel god doesn't mean the people around me can, and if I have to isolate myself from everyone in order for god to show up then I'm probably off-track.
This is hard. Life is so much to balance, so much to strive for... such a tender blend of effort and allowing, of relaxation and penetration, of peaceful silence and stormy confusion. Each day swirls through weather of feelings sad and generous, narrow and bold, in ways unpredictable and easy to mis-read.
My skin becomes pebbles, then rivulets of water - petals, then turns to unfeeling dust. My eyes bulge, dry and glaring and then tomorrow they rest easily on their sockets, taking it all in with a smile.
There is noting simple about this, and I cannot possibly fight it all - it is too big for me. Cumbersome and unwieldy, my ideas about life and my desire for the rainfall of truth to put and end to the drought of summer's doubt weigh my body down, and yesterday's prayers are no longer enough.
It's no longer enough for me to pray, I am not content with abstraction - I insist on embodiment. You know? Then show me. Words are not sufficient, it must be felt for truth to exist at all, and I hold myself accountable. The same standard. Hafiz says something like: "Look at the sun in the sky, every day giving of itself and never once saying: 'You owe me.' What it must take for a love like that to keep shining."
It's fucking hard, and I'm railing against the miserable incompetence that makes it so - the unjust straws drawn which put me and so many others in unhelpful economic positions and limit the time we have to nourish our dreams each day.
When the love we give to give to the dreams of our hearts must be carved out between bites of bitter disparity, sometimes even the sweetest flavors turn sour. There's moments when so much ineptitude staggers the mind and the lack of awareness presents too good an opportunity for my ego to pass up, and I blame it all on someone else.
There have been so many days since coming back (so many days since my declaration that I would find my life's purpose here on the ground, with this world as it is, or not at all) that I have forgotten that this journey is mine. It's not up to anyone else, not anyone else's responsibility but my own. Nor can anyone steal the sweetness of well-deserved peace, when indeed I've arrived into such a temporary pocket of sanity.
I may long to have started years ago, I may wish for a past that didn't include the trauma it did... I can regret my PTSD and slow start to engaging society on it's terms, but no matter what that does not shift responsibility onto another.
This journey is mine. I've chose it thus far, and I'm making harder choices now - choices I avowedly disagreed with 5 years ago.
There's so much I don't know, and that's not likely to change. Being willing to risk my attachment to my on precious certainties is a willingness I'm working hard to nurture - sticking it out in relationships that force me to re-evaluate my conclusions is a fucking bitch. But I've been proven wrong too many times to think I know what I'm doing anymore.
In so many ways, it was easier in esoteric-land. When I could fence myself in with narratives of spiritual superiority, I could justify my lack of participation in so many areas of life. No more fences now, which means the neighbors dog is shitting on my lawn and my garbage is stanking up his.
Being in the world is hard. It's also amazing. I long for a clear and true path through the quagmire, and know that if such a path exists a) its different for everyone and b) we make it ourselves.
I'm trying. The hardest part right now is feeling empowered - is feeling that I'm making choices I want to make, as opposed to ones I'm being forced to make. Feeling sorry for myself is a bit of an addiction, and not a helpful one.
Going forward, I'd like to feel more empowered, and feel sorry for myself less. (I'm thinking more working out, more physical activity... maybe some martial arts.) I'd like to let go of some of my desire for things to be other than the way they are, and focus on doing what I can do with what I have.
I'd like to take more responsibility for my choices and my emotions on daily basis, especially in my most regular/intimate relationships. I'd like to surrender the last vestiges of my pattern of spiritual escapism and focus more on the brief time I've got here before this body expires... there's a lot of tools in this world that are helpful. I'd like to put them to better use.