Becoming the custodian of the landscape of my mind…

I remember people always remarking to me that I was ‘in my head’ a lot and this statement carried with it some negative connotations. I understood this at the time because it meant that I wasn’t engaging with those around me and that created a sort of distance. Who knew that ultimately, this would become a strength that would help me engage so much better with those around me?  I have been working with plant medicines (Iboga, Ayahusca, Peyote & more) for some time now and although the immediate results of taking these medicines is pronounced and inspiring, I know that it’s just the beginning of the work that needs to be done to bring about lasting change. All of the healing work I’ve done has required me to engage with my mind in new ways. One of the things I learned to do was to take note of the nature of thoughts that occupied my mind. One by one I became aware of different kinds of harmful intrusions. One was ‘The Bully’ which was something I needed to address head on so that it no longer imposed upon my thoughts and ultimately affected my outlook. The word ‘outlook’ pretty much says it all in terms of how these kinds of thoughts affect your reality. The outlook is the lens through which you see the world and getting rid of intrusions in your mind can improve your life enormously.

Another form of intrusion I dealt with was an invasive form of panic. It’s not like an all out panic attack. I had those in the past and they are long gone. I think that the panic attacks happened to let me know that there was a lot of deeper work I needed to do to become healthy. It was a messenger and instead of receiving the message, I did what a lot of people do. I treated the message as a disease in itself rather than the symptom of a greater issue I needed to address. Ultimately, I had to endure a long and painful depression to bring me to a place where I was able to face the many issues that had been making themselves known to me in various ways (illnesses and other physical and psychological conditions). Now I have the tools to address these issues and the work is intensive. When I feel an emotional or physical discomfort, I know that it’s a message and that I have to take time out to discover what’s behind it. Not long ago it was a slight but persistent panic. It was very subtle so I had been diligently ignoring it in favour of getting other daily tasks done. This is a long standing habit – to ignore pain or discomfort whether it’s physical or emotional. Most of us do this and it’s understandable. I had to acknowledge this slightly panicked state, which was brought to my attention, and then make time to deal with it. When you realize the degree to which something like this impacts your daily experience and know that there’s a chance to address it, you have all the incentive you need.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, sometimes film is used to illustrate lessons and provide me with messages. This time, it was used to show me the many experiences I’ve had in my life that helped to construct this state of fear and panic. The sense of panic had a charge – a potency – and to release it, I had to acknowledge its origins. Sometimes this can be difficult to do but the stories that accompany this healing have the power to reach right inside of me and expose something deeply ingrained. Once I acknowledge this deeper reality and release the charge it has, sometimes through some tears, I’m able to then let it go. This panic had become a fixture in my mind no longer attached to old events and I would attach it to just about everything. In this way it became a constant part of my reality and I expended a great deal of energy to support it. Given that this was my everyday experience, I became so used to it that I didn’t even realize it was happening but felt the impact of it constantly. Once this was brought to my attention and I agreed to deal with it, the process of healing commenced. It takes time and commitment to do this but it’s well worth the investment. I often question this while it’s underway, while I’m watching movies thinking: “Can this possibly be good for me?” “Does this really constitute work?” I do this time and again despite the consistently positive results I’ve been getting from exactly this type of work. This questioning mind of mine is also constantly at work. But I have managed to not engage too much with this questioning side so that the other important work can continue.

Sometimes I think I allow the questioning to continue so that I can still remain connected to those who find this extraordinary work baffling. There are times I find it baffling too but I move on from this baffled state into a state of wonder.. a much more enjoyable state indeed. I’m still very attached to the world of thinking which can be helpful to a point but then it can become a barrier of intellectualizing. Perhaps it’s a unique form of intrusion in itself. I’ve found myself moving beyond the questioning so many times to a sensing, which leads to a deeper place of knowing – a much more peaceful place. It’s a profound state that needs no justification. It doesn’t pay homage to the endless struggle of the mind – the intellectual callisthenics we often think necessary to achieve knowledge. I’m now taking action within the mind itself and ordering it according to what serves me. It seems to me now that much of this intellectual wrangling is for its own sake. It wants to be acknowledged for the act itself – the thinking rather than the result – the result in this case being the evidence of thinking. This impressive tail chasing is a familiar scenario. When the result of these efforts of the mind is a knowing that can’t be evidenced by logic but by reality – by a healthy and peaceful state of being that can be experienced – I think it’s pretty clear which one will better serve me. It makes sense!

Movies, Healing and Emotional Detox

After returning from Peru in the spring of last year I underwent an unusual form of healing. It was a long and guided process that was tailor made for me and involved one of my favourite activities: watching movies. Initially upon my return from Peru I participated in what is called ‘The Presence Process’ as I had been guided to do in one of my Ayhuasca sessions but after that, the guidance continued and I have been continuing on in this guided way ever since. While in Peru, experiencing group Ayahuasca ceremonies, like many others, I was witness to some outpouring of emotion by various members in the group as part of their healing process. I was surprised to find that only one night in the entire two weeks did I find myself becoming emotional and it was fairly mild. After returning home and finding that I was being guided to do specific things to continue my unique healing process, I soon came to understand that there would be many opportunities for me to pour out my emotions.

One of the most consistent ways that I engage in this emotional healing is through film. It’s hard to tell at this point what I find more surprising, the guidance or the fact that watching films has become an act of healing for me. I think this pronounced internal guidance I’m receiving tops the list of surprising things hands down but it has become so much a part of everyday life for me that I begin to put it down to the regular internal dialogue that I’ve always had and that most people have. The difference is that my internal dialogue was never so wise, instructive, healthy or supportive. Shortly after completing the ‘presence process’ which was a revelation in itself, I was guided to watch certain movies. The first such instruction came to me while at home going about some regular tasks and the movie title would not leave my head. It was reinforced over and over. It was a film I didn’t really want to watch which helped me to accept that this was more than just some kind of preoccupation I was having. I watched the movie and found that I was very emotional during certain parts of it. It was not a normal experience. Of course I had been emotional during movies before but not on this scale and not in this way. During this movie there were parts that struck me in such a profound way and my response was immediate. Through these certain parts of the story, I was made to understand the message that was being communicated to me. There were both messages and lessons that formed an important part of my healing.

This form of healing continued and I was guided to watch other movies. Sometimes through a certain part of a film or during an entire film I was made to see certain parts of my behaviour that was not impressive to say the least. This is a common phenomenon when working with plant medicines so it was apparent to me that this medicine was still having an effect. This has been known to happen but everyone’s experience of it is different. There were also many other kinds of insight I received through this form of healing. I was made to see certain events in my life in ways that changed my perspective and gave me a better understanding of what I had experienced and how it had affected me. Other times I was given greater lessons about humanity. Some of these lessons we all know theoretically: the tragedy of how we hurt one another and how this is perpetuated generation after generation. We do this because we’re unaware of things we carry inside of us that cause harmful behaviour which is difficult for us to see from our own standpoint – unless we make a concerted effort to do so that is.

This lesson is one of the most important ones because it’s so universal. We hear it and it makes sense but somehow these lessons for me took on a whole new depth when watching these movies. It was something I had agreed to do for the purpose of healing and this is what took it beyond the usual movie watching experience. The movies became a tool or a vehicle to reach me and they did with tremendous impact. It’s really quite startling the difference between just passively watching a movie (as I had done so many times before) and being guided to watch one for the purpose of healing. I could watch the same movie an hour, a day or a week later and have no reaction at all. The agreement I made each time pertained to a specific movie to be watched with an intention of healing at a particular time in my life. This combination was what seemed to bring about this extraordinary experience.

The messages I receive in this way rarely have anything to do with the subject matter of the film. Sometimes the subject is used to convey certain concepts but mostly it’s the mystifying power of stories themselves that have been traditionally used to convey ideas, concepts and lessons for centuries. Sometimes an actual sentence will stand out in a way that I know it’s meant for me. It’s very clear and the messages are always full of wisdom, compassion and insight. It’s been such a fascinating experience and the best part is that after I commit to watching the film that has come up for me, I feel so much better afterwards. There is a distinct difference between this and having a good cry at a movie. With every tear, something within me changes and afterwards the feeling of release is unmistakable. This change happens on a deep level and I feel lighter. Through this process I’m often relieved of something that had been dogging me for a very long time – an emotional or psychological weight has been lifted. This is often in stark contrast to the way I feel beforehand.

I’ve come to refer to this process as emotional detox. I do this because the build up to the healing itself is a feeling of emotional toxification. The things inside of me that need to be healed rise within me and it feels awful. Sometimes I need to live with these uncomfortable feelings for what seems like a long period of time before they are relieved through this form of healing. The word uncomfortable is really too mild a word to describe what happens. Sometimes it’s almost unbearable. It varies of course like illness often does from mild to more severe. When it’s severe I pity the people I’m around and try to minimize the casualties in my midst through containment. I try to manage my reactions to things. This is something I agree to as well and it can be quite the challenge. Given how long I’ve been at it, the severity of the build-up has reduced significantly. I still don’t like the feeling of each build-up but I’m reminded of earlier days and know that it’s well worth the progress I’ve made. It seems that this healing happens in stages related to layers of pain that have been lingering deep inside for years. The timing of these healings is still a mystery to me among so many mysteries I will probably never understand.

Some movies I was guided to watch were very hard to get a hold of. They were movies from my childhood – obscure ‘70s movies – but the response once I watched them was so powerful. Other times it was obnoxious ‘80s movies I had no interest in seeing and I really had to muster up some faith to bring myself to watch them. This was especially true because of how miserable I was feeling working up to this point and yet my motivation to relieve these awful feelings always eclipsed my reluctance. No matter how consistently I was healed by this process I questioned it every time. I still do. It’s something I had to get used to. I often laugh about the tenacity of my doubt given the consistently positive results but after a lifetime of believing that this kind of thing is not possible, it’s difficult to shake the part of myself that still doubts. I’ve become accustomed to doubt now and allow it to flow through me without giving it too much energy.

It’s been and continues to be a remarkable experience. I’ve been asked to watch films where I can relate to every character in the film – even the nasty ones and ones I never could have imagined relating to before. It’s been enlightening, astonishing and liberating. It has released me from issues that had been clouding my judgement and holding me back in so many ways. It has alleviated maladies I didn’t even know I had and healed others that I felt were beyond anyone’s powers. It has strengthened my relationships with those closest to me, especially my young son, and has helped me to face things in my life in a more honest and direct way. This has been a result of not only this peculiar movie technique but the constant guidance I’ve received daily. It’s been an extraordinary experience that I doubt words can do justice to but I’m utterly compelled to try.

I’ve always been a questioning sort of person and continue to be although I don’t always get the answers I want. Sometimes I don’t get answers at all but what I get is far more important than that. I get positive change. That’s far more valuable than anything that answers can provide. These changes within me are worth embracing any notions I previously considered to be strange or impossible or flighty (the list goes on). The truth is that I’m not asked to believe anything really. I’m just asked to agree to do certain things to heal. One of the things that I know is part of my healing is to speak and it would be impossible for me not to speak about this inner guidance. I know it’s inside of all of us. It’s a phenomenon that has such possibilities to end suffering and to bring about peace. It has astounding potential and yet it is a very personal and unique experience for everyone. It can’t be bottled or marketed but it can be shared and people can be inspired to pursue their own experience of it in their own way and that’s what I hope to do.

 

Observing my thought patterns… the reason I never have to watch disaster movies

Inner work has been quite an adventure for me at times. I began this inner work after becoming involved in shamanism and ultimately working with shamanic plant medicines such as Ayahuasca and Iboga. These plants can do amazing things to propel people forward into a state of improved mental health, but often the work begins after taking the medicine. The most popular term that people use to describe the application of the gifts that these medicines bring is ‘integration’. I have worked steadily over the last couple of years on integration and one of the most important aspects of this work is observing the mind. I have come to a point where I’ve been able to observe my thoughts and begin to change the kinds of thoughts that occupy my mind. Some repeating themes have surprised me. I wrote previously about getting acquainted with The Bully Within and the inner adventures continue.

Becoming mindful can be a bigger experience than I had ever imagined. Of course, I had never imagined becoming ‘mindful’. I just wanted to cure myself of a deep four year depression. This led me down an astonishing path of revelations that continue to amaze me daily. A requirement of my healing was to observe my thought patterns. What havoc! I will start out by saying that this is an ongoing process as is all of this inner work but one of the first things that struck me was how often I had conjured up images of disasters. It reminded me of listening to my mother’s worries when we were kids. “I could see you falling and breaking your back and the ambulance coming!” There were lots of references to the spinal cord. My father was a big one for “you’ll crack your head open!”. This always inspired interesting images in our little heads but the point is, that although there were some accidents when we were kids (I was one of 5 children) reality could never compete with the incessant vivid catastrophes that took place in my mother’s mind – it simply wasn’t possible. Well, as it turns out, I take after her and far too many of the thoughts that came to my mind with alarming frequency were disaster scenarios. Not only related to my child, although that one I’m sure many can understand.

I was surprised to discover that I was haunted by such thoughts on a regular basis. The internal stress that this caused was immeasurable not to mention the effect it had on my outlook. These thoughts would come unbidden at all times of the day, completely unrelated to anything I was doing at times. I would have images of accidents and all manner of painful or dangerous events happening either in my house or on the street.. things falling, me falling, tripping and getting caught under a bus, stepping on cut glass, getting electrocuted, fires, injuries, natural disasters, you name it. Granted, sometimes these things were related to issues I was dealing with i.e. while cleaning up a broken glass or getting on a bus but I realized after observing my thoughts long enough that this was sort of like a program that continued to run completely independent of anything I was involved with at the time. These little images flew into my mind and out again and I was left with the impression of them and the internal reaction to these impressions. It’s hard to believe that this had been happening for so long without me being aware of it or taking note. I guess I had never thought that this was something that could be changed or that I had any control over. But I did and once I became aware of this pattern, I began to address it and intentionally change it.

I remember that the idea of being on the edge of my seat in a movie theatre (or in my living room for that matter) was never appealing for me and now I understand this better. I had a disaster movie marathon running through my mind on a regular basis. Having worked to change the landscape of my mind, I admit that I’m still not in any way tempted to watch disaster flicks.. I don’t think it was ever meant to be my thing but I’m grateful to be at liberty to find my ‘edge of the seat’ experiences in other ways. Of course there was a point where I breathed easier and was pleased with my progress about this. After some diligent work I can honestly say that this doesn’t occupy my mind much at all anymore. Did I feel peaceful as a result? Of course, and then I was presented with the next challenge but this is a path I have chosen and there’s always more work to do.

I will admit to having more of an attraction to adventure films rather than disaster films (or thrillers) and although that’s still true, I have found that this inner adventure is quite enough for me at times. This work has also involved its fair share of external adventures as well involving travel and plant medicines (travel on many levels) so I think I am sufficiently sated in terms of stimulation. And as far as movies go, there are times that this work for me involves watching films and receiving lessons, insights and healing using this medium as a tool. It is a very customized regime that is also ongoing. I will write about this more fully in another post but for the time being, I just wanted to share about the nature of my thoughts past and present, both thoughts I have worked to oust from my mind and thoughts about observing my thoughts. Is that enough thinking for today? I think so, we can always move onto feelings soon, which is quite the adventure too.