in which i borrow ideas from highly realised lamas
until i am able to realise them myself
In my former life as a pushover who willingly believed others’ beliefs, values and (worst) opinions because I so deeply lacked my own sense of self, I realise now that I was leaving myself open to be exploited by master manipulators of all kinds, from the most obvious to the most insidious … from the left-wing propagandists I worked for to members of my own family.
For a while there I was naive enough to believe that all I needed to do for my healing was to meditate and shave, by which I mean “engage in self-care”. I believed that if I just cultivated an inner environment where only my good qualities would manifest and express themselves, where old ego structures would fall away so I would act in the world from a place of honesty and compassion. But I see now that self-care involves more than just ensure I have a strong sense of who I am without major unwieldy expressions of what my ego thinks I am. I see now that self-care is going to have to involve defending myself against major unwieldy expressions of other people’s forms of ego,
because although I believe all people are inherently good, I no longer labour under the delusion that people will necessarily behave well (eg. be honest), because our collective conditioning is such that even the most honest and good-hearted people I know struggle to be honest when a major hidden ego structure is triggered to react.
I now understand that protecting myself against the egoic behaviour of others (and myself) is going to have to involve research about and awareness of the common manipulation tactics we deploy when ego confronts ego in our daily lives.
I come to this understanding through rather fortunate means: I had a minor altercation with Mum this morning about (essentially) our differing beliefs, values and opinions (BVOs …
… or, if we shift the order of the acronym to BOV … add the ‘l’ from belief … we get BlOV, a nice shorthand for something like “bloviation”, which is “the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing”.
The art of bloviation is a term used to describe politickal posturing (if that’s not a tautology), but could also be described as “wasting our lives in idle, meaningless chatter about things that don’t matter and, fundamentally, missing the point (of life)”;
I am fortunate that I didn’t have to get myself bashed by a redneck (or my brother) again before I finally realised that I need to understand the machinations of ego if I am to defend myself against its attacks, both internal and external.
My starting point for this (in lieu of an environment conducive to deep, longterm meditation) is research into psychology (a compulsion I have been deferring for 17 years), and in particular the psychology of manipulation,
our most insidious means of controlling others in our ongoing and vain attempts to avoid understanding (and thereby controlling) ourselves.
In other related news, I have done three poos already this morning, which is a sure sign that I am becoming increasingly less and less full of shit. Huzzah!
After drafting the above and doing some haphazard smart-phone research into Open Universities, psychology and the ways to identify manipulation, I began to panic and feel sad: the symptoms I read about are symptoms I have witnessed in myself, and I began to feel confused, again, about who I am and whether in fact I was the key abuser in all of my relationships. Shaking and on the verge of an emotional breakdown, I lumbered around the house doing karma yoga while I searched in panic for who had hidden my fucking yoga mat! Turns out I had put it where it belonged the day before but, being unfamiliar with this new practice of tidying up after myself, I assumed it would be scrunched up somewhere unexpected. I eventually found it and spent a good solid hour doing the best yoga I know how to do. My hips, lower back, and chest were all scrunched up and fucked, but I was able to open them again using mostly floor postures. Phew! I then sat down to smoke a pipe, drink some St John’s Wort and write the following.
I did some good yoga and I feel much better now, but/and after writing that thing [above the italics] and reading about manipulation I know I still need to do some research into manipulation and also into studying psychology through Open Universities. [My first study priority is actually to get my TEFL certificate so I can pursue right livelihood through teaching English as a second language.] I apologised to Mum [for reacting with sarcasm to her passive aggression], and she reciprocated with a message identifying her own manipulation tactics.
I understand that I can be manipulative and/because that’s what I’ve learned from the manipulators I was raised by. Far from this upbringing excusing my behaviour, it compels me to understand how it manifests within myself, so that I will be much more able to identify it in others. Therein lies the first and only defence.
I’m so proud of myself for learning how to manage this, because I did have a lapse today,
where I perceived a brown shirt to be my white pants!
I picked up what I thought were my white yoga pants and put them down on the back of a chair outside, where I was planning to put them on. The moment I put them down I saw they were, in fact, a brown shirt. [Both of these items of clothing are lightweight-cotton “hippy-style” garments, so by touch they appear to be exactly the same. It’s funny when allow myself to perceive it that way: White Pants, Brown Shirt … it could be the title for a Clint Eastwood parody!]
This is what I talk about when I talk about existing on a hairline fracture between illusion and reality.
This both is, and is not, a mental illness. What this experience reveals to me is that while I am definitely not in a permanent state of extreme psychosis, it is frighteningly easy for me to slip (during the emotional distress of a minor altercation with Mum) back into [the symptoms of] psychosis.
What this experience reveals to me is that while I am doing extra-ordinarily well after such extreme psychosis as I experienced a few weeks ago, I am still not healed. Far from it.
Whereas a few weeks ago I was oscillating between whether I was the reincarnation of Buddha or the Devil … whereas recently I believed I had somehow magically attained the quality of bodhichitta by dying when I was assaulted on the 25th and reincarnating immediately into my next lifetime and then hustling myself to that life’s reincarnation of Chenrezig Institute … what these experiences reveal to me is that yes, maybe I purged some epic egoic demons doing psychotic yoga at the stupa of enlightenment,
but that was just the beginning. If that was just the beginning of ego-death and the reincarnation of my self, then I definitely have a lot more fun to look forward to.
What I do think and feel (the nearest approximation I have to knowing) is that perhaps what I experienced could be called the dark night of the soul,
which I survived.
This was all happening around the Aquarian new moon of January 2017, at the eve of the Chinese New Year of the Rooster, which some people refer to as the Phoenix.
So it’s no real surprise that I would have experienced such an epic case of a messiah complex, considering this:
I was raised essentially alone by my mother, in the absence of my father and in the presence of my brother who may have been exhibiting the acquired [*deletes diagnosis*] tendencies of my (potentially neglected, abandoned) abusive father;
so I became fiercely independent within a cosmos where independence is the greatest myth of all time, the greatest manifestation of ignorance we suffer;
I also seem to have carried with me through birth a heart that yearned for the wellbeing of the world before it learned how to yearn for my own wellbeing.
I have always been a helper/carer/giver, and it has consistently surprised me when I take the Enneagram test that this is what comes up when deep down inside me I have always somehow known that in reality I am a manifestation of the creative-visionary archetype.
For example, at the beginning of my publishing career I deliberately and willingly put aside my own literary ambitions because I considered it more important to facilitate the ideas of many than it was to create and express my own, the ideas of one. I am among the many in our culture who were lead to believe that creativity and self-expression is indulgent and selfish when compared with being a “productive” member of the capitalist economy.
I very nearly became the classic example (archetype?) of the literary agent who resented the world for not recognising his martyrdom because he was too insecure to brave the hard road of the creative visionary.
The belittlement I experienced from birth (after nearly dying in a humidicrib) was a double-edged sword: the resulting inferiority complex compelled me to push my prodigious literary talents to the impossible of extremes of 150% in service of others; my career became one massive ego trip; those experiences compelled me to believe that I was the only person in the world who gave two fucks about me; and somehow despite/because of it all,
I emerged gregarious and unexpectedly successful in an arts career.
[This was all before the last seven years, by the end of which even I had given up on giving so much as one fuck. Toward the end of the last seven years I felt, on far too many occasions, that I and the world would be far better off without me. I mean, what the actual fuck!? That doesn’t even make any sense. But remember, my first thoughts of suicide occurred in my childhood, when I used to imagine running away to the creek near the golf course, where I thought I would be able to hold my breath for long enough to die without anyone even noticing … my first intuitive thoughts of pranayama? :D]
My dad was [sorry … is] one of those blokes who loved to say, despite his affection for Banjo Patterson, whose biography he seems to have never read, “You’ll never make it as a poet son – you’ll never pay the bills.” (I nearly wrote “pay [for] the billies” 🙂
When I started earning a decent salary as a poet (for what is a good book editor if not a master of the universal poetic voice?), this still wasn’t good enough,
I guess because in truth I was spending my salary on billies and bottles instead of paying the rent on time, but he never actually knew that …
… he claims to have not known about my drug habit until I told him a few years ago.
How does a father not know of a son’s 20-year drug habit? By bailing on that son at eight years old … burying his head in the sand of …
Ya know, I learned the other day after investigating something I found on GnosticWarrior.com, that dia-gnosis, from the Greek, means something like “to understand through direct experience”, and this is why it is rarely possible for anyone other than yourself to fully understand whatever maligned condition you might have … of course, a GP is going to know loads more about why my ears are clogged up and about the best ways to treat that, and of course we frequently need to depend on experts outside ourselves for understanding such complex ideas as quantum physics, but when it comes to mental dis-orders there is no one, I repeat, no one, who can determine better than you, what condition you’re in, no matter how much they profess to know about your childhood or about psychiatry, which is why I decided to not include my amateur diagnosis of Dad’s probable mental-health condition, which can be rephrased as the condition of Dad’s mental health to render it far less threatening and therefore a far-less problematic thing to say.]
… resolving to never return. [*deletes angry plea for Dad to let me in*]
Dad recently conceded to me that yes, he bailed on us (he said he thought that we would be better off with a stable home with Mum and without his involvement, and maybe he was right about that, because his influence was toxic enough from a distance). This was, again, a few years ago, around the time he said “I love you” for the first time.
[*fearing self-censorship, re-inserts above plea hoping that good intentions will see us through*] If you’re reading this Dad, please don’t threaten me with suicide again, okay, for saying this online. Because deep down inside you know that’s a bullshit scare tactic to deflect my attempts to understand you in my ongoing hope to learn how to love you. And you also know how many times I’ve tried to understand you in private conversation, and how many times you’ve deflected that.
I love him for that [for at least eventually saying that he loves me], and it will help me as I continue pursuing the means for cultivating forgiveness.
But for now I still have to be honest and say that was way too little, way too late. I can’t deny that I feel that, because, as I said above:
i am not the reincarnation of compassion;
I am human.
Until now I have been going through life as a scarred little boy who feared that no one could ever love him. At times I have felt even that Mum didn’t love me,
which is a bastardisation of reality if I ever heard of one.
This is what I talk about when I talk about mental illness,
which is not a permanent condition;
the human condition itself is a type of chronic mental illness, as described by some of the world’s most highly realised lamas.
These are not my ideas. I am just borrowing them for now, until I can carve out the timespace to undertake the mental training required to confirm or deny these concepts for myself.
Meanwhile, thank you to Raymond Carver, Gordon Lish, and Chenrezig for holding me together for long enough to arrive here for now. Thank you to Paul, George and Esther … thank you to MB, JB and SJ … thank you to Bill and Susan … thank you to Shazza and the Camambulator … thank you to everyone who saw in me what I suspected in my early career, but which I couldn’t really actually believe. Thank you to Ruby and Kathy, the two young women in my life who saw quality in me long before my career even began.
Thank you to Milan Kundera, J R R Tolkien and all the manifestations of Knobelisque the Great for being there for me when I couldn’t be there for myself enough to hold my fractured self together. Thank you to Steve Weaves for looking me in the eye and saying, “I love you.”
Thank you to Thich Nhat Hanh, for your translation of the heart sutra, which I am trying to absorb as slowly as possible. Thank you for helping me to see this notebook and this pencil for the sunshine and the logger that they really also are.
And thank you to Ryan Peter Paine for remaining a good-hearted little boy through all my tear-choked rebellion.
May the present remain bright enough to yield a dazzling future, and may you be inspired by these mostly equanimous confessions to do what you deep down know you need to do.
With much love, and ever yours in vulnerability,
Ryan “Bodhi” Abhijan.