Sometimes it is so clear. And others, not so much.
My experience of the present moment is almost always contaminated by the biological markers of abuse and neglect. My cells are records of my life experiences, all of them. Supposedly this is an evolutionary mechanism that encodes both long term and short term adaptations to environmental influences. Great, but what does this mean to me in the dazed and confused times of my life? How can I reach out to this logic when the cloud cover is heavy and dark?
I have glimpses of clarity. Clarity fuelled by a relentless need to know just what the fuck is going on inside of me. Books, webinars, podcasts and my own personal journal writing are all aids to help me understand, to help me grasp some sense of coherence, to help me understand why I feel the way I do, why I have made the choices I have made.
I understand a cursory overview of such things as quantum physics (mechanics), genetics, epigenetics, inter-generational trauma, PTSD, C-PTSD, F-MRI’s, trauma, treatments of trauma. I have read Peter Levine, Bessel van der Kolk, Rachel Yehuda, Krista Tippet interviews. I have listened to podcasts by doctors, researchers, victims, spiritual leaders such as Mooji and Adyashanti, and healer Julie Brown Yau. I have read books written by victims of abuse and neglect, watched some intense movies that speak to the human struggle, read Cosmic Consciousness by Maurice Bucke, irreverent books like those of Jed McKenna, spiritual writings by Thoreau and others. I have been a searcher turned into a researcher, all fuelled by an angst and a fear that I have something wrong with me.
I have taken into my body countless concoctions, from ayahuasca and acid to secretions from the Sonoran Desert Toad, psilocybin and MDMA to Iboga …. all of these with the hope that I could extract the pain and grief that will not give way to knowledge and logic. Untold amount of money spent on counselling, acupuncture, Somatic Experiencing, BodyTalk, and other forms of the healing arts. Two separate fasts in the deserts of California (highly recommended).
And here is what I have come to understand, at least for the moment.
My experience of any given moment has been impaired by the biological markers of abuse and neglect. My suspicion is that the abuse was at times so severe that my biological self suppressed my memories so I might survive the event. The fear, the terror became encoded in my cells and my body has been keeping the secrets ever since.
My life is littered with evidence that I was haunted from within. Phantom illnesses throughout my life, sick on every birthday until at least the age of thirteen, alcohol abuse, over-eating, extremely poor money management, failed marriage and relationships, many episodes of depression, suicidal thoughts (no attempts, thank goodness), countless apologies for irreverent behaviour, and a steady stream of underlying anger that would surface far too often and far too explosive. In hindsight, all of these and more markers of a man who was not doing well.
Confusion ruled. Clarity was very rare and always fleeting.
As I sit here at this moment and write these words, I can see the mechanism that has kept me from being well. And I apologize for sounding like I am trying to “systemize” my life like some spreadsheet. But since I have been trying to make sense of my life and my experiences, I have been on a mission of sense-making. And this seems to imply that I am in search of logic, not the mystical, the magical, the unseeable, the unknowable, for I have had enough of the unknowable in my life.
So here goes.
The main thing that keeps me alive, that keeps my heart and lungs working still, to me this is the force of consciousness. A theory called biocentrism posits that the building block for all matter is not the particle but is consciousness. This is how I see things as well. To me, this is the magical, the unknowable, the mystical. Further, we are all consciousness and connected. There is one consciousness and it animates all beings, all things.
After that, it seems to get rather mechanized. Our physical existence is particle-based, systemized, sense-making. Our biology can be measured, activities in the mind can now be mapped, neural connections and synapses can be studied, communications between the billions of cells is known to exist, etc.
With all of this as background, I feel that my capacity to be present and fully-functioning has been hampered by my body’s evolutionary mechanism of shutting down during a traumatic event.
What once saved me became my prison.
For me to understand this and write it down in such a concise statement, I have had to spend enormous amounts of energy, I have suffered greatly and have caused great suffering. Almost assuredly my life will have been shortened due to the toll of these internal battles.
For me to hold still in the present moment requires that I sit quietly and pay attention to the forces that are in play, namely my will to survive any and all possible threats balanced with the knowledge that my body is preparing for a fight that doesn’t exist. My spirit vs my mis-informed body. There is no threat today. What happened to me a a kid is not happening now, and yet my body is prepared for exactly such a possibility. It is up to me to understand that my response(s) to the moment are likely faulty and are fuelled by non-existent threats.
It is a challenge to even be able to hold on to the clarity long enough to get through writing this rather short synopsis of how I see my struggle. The clouds are always threatening to return. Will they? I know not.
I have been in the process of recalibrating myself to respond to my environment in very different ways than ever before. I seem to have unlimited energy for such an exercise and this surprises me for I have never had enough energy for anything at anytime. But the promise of fresh air seems to be what has kept me going. I cannot explain it any other way and I consider myself fortunate that this is so. I am surprised that I have not suffered more, that I have not lived a life full of addictions. I say this because I have recognized the pain of others many times and I have hurt inside knowing that I am but a hair’s breadth away from being just like them.
I have three children and four grandchildren. I have loved them even as I have also burdened them. My hope is that I can give them the gift of my health, that when I leave this world the burdens will have been burned up in the atmosphere during my re-entry as I assume a more healthy orbit. This is my evolutionary response, to pass on health.