I've been on a journey lately that may be one of the most important things I've ever done in my life.
I mentioned in my last post how I try to think of my mental illness issues as a blessing instead of a curse; as frustrating as the downsides can be, I sometimes think that I am able to use the symptoms to my advantage. I may feel a little more deeply than other people, which of course is bad when the feelings are bad, but when they're good? It's amazing. I think they call it flying close to the sun, which is exactly how I picture myself.
I've had so many epiphanies and "lightbulb moments" this past month that I don't even know where to begin. I've been working on my happiness, and fighting depression and anxiety with medication but also with thought and perspective changes. At least, that's where it started.
Sometime after my last post, I was sitting out on my back patio, sipping coffee and checking my phone. It was a normal morning, cool and still, and my dog was in the backyard with me. She had been lying in the grass and I guess heard a squirrel, and got up to check it out. As I looked up from my phone and watched her, I had this overwhelming sense of tranquility that I could not explain. It wasn't just happiness, it was something almost holy. I don't remember ever experiencing anything like it. It lasted for about a minute. I noticed the wind moving the trees slowly and it was like I was in tune with every leaf. I saw her moving towards the squirrel quietly, I noticed the temperature of the air, the way the sun was hitting everything, and the moment seemed to last forever. Then it was over, and I felt so peaceful. I had no idea what had just happened but I knew I had tapped into something that I wanted more of.
The next day I tried to explain what had happened to my husband, but coming up with words for that experience is nearly impossible. And when you describe the actual moment, it sounds so insignificant when in reality, it was enormous.
I moved on not knowing what to think about that moment and kept trying to recreate it. The closest I could come was on my walks out in nature, but nothing ever came close to the perfection and the stillness I had found on my patio.
I read several blogs and websites about happiness and peace these days, to aid in my journey to finding permanent happiness. I kept seeing the book "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle mentioned on these blogs. I had heard of this book years earlier and even remember watching Mr. Tolle speak on Oprah back when I had time to watch tv. It was on my radar, then one afternoon I was scrolling my Facebook feed and someone had asked "What are you all reading right now?" and someone mentioned this book. That was all I needed that the universe was trying to tell me something, so I bought the book on Kindle and began it that night.
In the first chapter, Mr. Tolle describes the moment I experienced in perfect detail! I couldn't believe it! I was obviously meant to read this book, and it turns out to be the answers that I was seeking in "How can I get more of that". His explanation is a tough one to recreate in my own words, but basically, once we tune into the present moment then we are in touch with our own spirits--the "us" that is free of the thinking brain; and only then can we find true peace and happiness. The book is his teaching of how to accomplish this feeling even through our darkest hours.
I've written here before about how I lost my religion after my father's brain tumor disaster. I just couldn't believe anymore in the God that I grew up knowing, it didn't make sense to me that someone was up there making decisions or allowing things to happen and it was all part of some larger plan. At first I called myself an atheist but I think that was more of an anger thing with a God that I still believed in on some level. Eventually I let that go, and I could not deny that there was still "something"...I just didn't know what.
I think I'm starting to understand that now; my belief of what there "is". It's a connection between all human beings, all living things. And not our "egos"--which make us do crazy things, but our souls. We are all one.
This has been tough for me to wrap my mind around. In nature, it's easy. I love nature. I can look at a tree and feel my one-ness with it, no problem. Trees don't have egos, or thinking minds, and a tree has never hurt me. People are a totally different story. I've been hurt by people. People completely mystify me in their behaviors. People make me anxious--I practically never leave my house these days out of fear of people. But I'm still learning and trying, and my goal is to completely eliminate my anxiety.
Our thoughts are completely controllable. We create dramas and anxieties with our thinking minds that cause us so much unnecessary pain. By worrying about the future we create what Mr. Tolle calls an "anxiety gap"--a gap between the present moment and the future that causes pain. The future hasn't happened yet and it is insanity to focus on it instead of focusing on right now, the perfect present.
It turns out that I already knew this on some level. When I was reading about the anxiety gap I remembered a conversation I had with my youngest a few months ago. She was suddenly terrified of dying someday and couldn't sleep at night because of thinking about it. It broke my heart to watch her suffer from the same anxiety I've had my entire life, and I taught her to ask herself "Am I ok right now?" The answer is ALWAYS yes, and she got over her fear of dying very quickly.
When the book described letting go of so much unnecessary thought and anxiety I began to cry. I want my brain to stop thinking so much. It's like a constant current of noise and when it was turned off momentarily, the silence was so beautiful.
36 years of habit is going to be tough to undo. I feel like I'm undergoing a major transformation in thought and just like changing to a healthy eating lifestyle, it's not going to be easy and will take lots of time and attention. But all to have more of that peaceful moment on my patio back? Completely worth it.