I find myself wandering in a strange space – like Walter Tevis’ Man Who Fell to Earth, an alien inside the confines of a human body. What began today as a thought experiment, inspired by reading Tara Brach’s chapter on “Coming Home to Our Body”, I feel like I have been cast like Jerome Newton into a strange world defined by muscles and flesh.
On waking, I felt the pain as usual, but I delved deeper, trying to connect to it, to encompass it with my thoughts, to claim it. Brach quotes Rumi, “The cure for the pain is in the pain.” I became aware of each muscle in my body, stretched taut with pain and fear. The pain stored in the body, somehow separate from myself, and yet now a part of myself. An exercise in pain turned into an exercise in breathing, trying to breathe softness and gentleness into the pain. I knew I should not try to medicate this pain away, but over hours it seemed to continue burning, and now I could not disengage.
How can one acknowledge pain so intimately when it seems like fire dancing through the nerve endings of the body? Everything becomes surreal when you try to embrace the experience. I feel my brain jarring with repetitive auditory hallucinations – fragments of music I have listened to recently, even the melody of a cell phone, all have invaded my consciousness and are stuck on endless loop in my head. I feel like my head is exploding.
One of the pieces of music includes a woman’s voice calling out plaintively through the fog. I can’t work out if she is lost, or calling the lost home to her. Stuck in a dissociative fugue, there’s a feeling I should respond, but I’m not sure she could hear me for all the echoes bouncing off this impermeable white-grey fog. The sound is at once sad, dischordant, and yet hopeful – as though she knows that I’ll answer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about dissociation today, about our society’s reaction to it, which is largely rejection. To wander away from the physical world and the body seems to many an escape, and just as distasteful if reached as a natural state of existence as much as the result of an addiction to hallucinogenic drugs. I have long had this innate ability, even though I didn’t truly know it for what it was. To dissociate is to be carried away by a river much larger than one’s self, to immerse oneself in the collective unconscious.
To choose a path wandering between the world of the unconscious and the physical world seems fraught with danger, if this thought experiment is any indication. I feel sad that the dichotomy between the two exists. Indeed, in many ancient cultures, and cultures today with their feet in ancient lore, this kind of altered state is revered, not feared.
I have a feeling of re-entry, as though my thoughts and readings truly did precipitate a coming home. However, it feels like I am in two places, two worlds, and both have beauties and dangers that should neither be embraced or rejected as the full version of reality.
Life is in the between stage, drifting between the narrows and the open sea, within the shimmering fog, or under the cold black night with its ice chips of fire.
I listen to the call, and while I deliberate over making a response, I can’t be truly sure it isn’t my own voice calling out, Lost, Lost…
Somewhere in this confusion, in this place, there are many paths, many answers.
I fold myself into the confines of a human body, but somehow, my soul is much larger. It drifts, it feels intense pain, it waits patiently for its own call.