The first time I remember consciously trying to teach someone something; I was riding the bus to school.
I was trying to transform my new friend Chelsea into a reading fanatic; I grew up in a house with no television, I really had no choice but to love it. “If you could go anywhere in the universe, where would it be,” I asked her. She chose the Marshmallow Palace, fairly standard for a seven-year-old girl, and I proceeded to explain that just by opening a book about such a dreamland, she could experience all of its wonders as if she had really traveled there physically. The rest of the children on the bus didn’t receive my teaching with as much enthusiasm as my current students do, but this is my first memory of the inspiration and transcendence that come from a connection to the Divine Teacher.
My memories of the stories I immersed myself in as a child are much stronger than the memories of my own experiences. In fact, I cannot recall one single moment of happiness in my childhood. Seriously. I’ll let you know when I come up with one because I’ve been trying, hard. With the help of several teachers, I’ve come to realize that this is because my experiences weren’t based on the physical level like most children, I literally start out in another world.
I am a highly sensitive person.
Are you? We are the kind that get our own acronym because only a small minority of the population experiences life in this way. We naturally start with the transcendental and have to learn to connect with the physical, the opposite of most humans. When I first heard the term HSP, I didn’t need a test to tell me I had found the root of my differences and struggles to fit in. My strangeness has defined me for as long as I can remember and it was a relief to learn that this was actually to be expected. For twenty percent of literally every population on Earth (bears, walruses, sharks, humans, too) life is defined by the gift of a nervous system that is innately more receptive to sensory input.
We are instruments created by divine energy to experience itself.
The seventh chakra is our spiritual connector, it’s like the plug we put into the wall socket of the universe to receive electricity. From this place we experience a direct connection to the transcendental dimension of life. It is the gateway through which all spiritual energy enters no matter whether you call the Divine Teacher God, Tao or whatever. (I choose “the Universe” because of my science-y brain.)
For many, the experiences of inspiration, mysticism and transcendent ideas are only achieved through meditation, prayer, or some other devotional means. These acts of faith are what enable us to gain an intensity of internal awareness. Now, I grew up in a church and until I was in my twenties I thought I knew what prayer was. It was asking God for stuff you needed and telling him what you wanted, right? Well, I found the force of God when I was seventeen and let me tell you, it literally stopped me in my tracks. In that moment I didn’t know what I had experienced but looking back I see it as a revolutionary turning point.
What happened, you ask? I took a breath.
One day I was walking down the quiet street of my rural neighborhood to calm myself after a particularly difficult family encounter. I suddenly stopped and realized that the essence of life is not found in rigorous monitoring of every single breath, but in the single beautiful instant when you remember you are breathing and let go of everything to savor the new-again sweetness of a mindful inhale that simultaneously fills your heart and lungs, effortlessly. I had just read my first book on mindfulness; something had suddenly drawn me to the library one Saturday afternoon in 2007 and I had left with a stack of fifteen books on religions ranging from Judaism to Rastafarianism and one that would change my life. I don’t recall the reason I went there, but today I am so uncontrollably grateful that intuition broke through that I want to explode into loud rainbows full of sparkles and butterflies, the likes of which no acid-tripper has ever seen.
I do things backwards.
Usually this lesson is the last stop on the transformational journey; indeed, I have not yet read even one book on spiritual growth that has started here in the crown, but everything happens backwards for us HSPs and this was the place from which my journey began. My capacity for symbolic sight, the thing which most people learn about from books like Anatomy of the Spirit, has always been overactive in a way that can only be satiated by delving into stories of all shapes and origins. History and metaphors do the trick because unraveling the patterns of their construction is like deciphering a puzzle. Discovering new applications of old patterns gets me off in the way some ladies swoon over dresses modeled by starlets on the red carpet.
I’m addicted to thinking.
This capacity sounds all jazzy and wonderful BUT, let me tell you, this inclination means I love to analyze and dwell on the past. My symbolic sight is so well designed that years later I literally cringe in shame when I simply remember “the way” someone looked at me. Each replay of a past event is the need to understand a pattern. It is an addiction to the “AHA!” moment when I crack the puzzle of why they reacted some way and why I behaved some other way. Each replay satiates my desire to touch the mystic realm of understanding. Until writing this, it escaped me that this dwelling on the past habit was an addiction to conscious rapport with the divine energy of human consciousness. The feeling when something clicks into place, that’s what they call intuition(!) and divinity, that’s what we experience through cognition.
I worry the divine will leave me for good.
For me, this dwelling and mental reworking comes from a place of fear. Indeed, at some level we all feel the fear of a quiet mind because it comes from a fear of being separated from life and the people around us. A quiet mind is the one thing necessary to truly live in the present moment but we fear that if we stop the tape player, we won’t be able to turn it back on again when cognition becomes necessary again. If we leave the past, the land of everything we’ve ever known, will we ever be allowed back?
Make peace with the past so it won’t screw up the present.
Faith in the divine is the knowledge that nothing is permanent, much less silence. Learning to live in the present moment is the major life lesson to be learned at this level of consciousness and making peace with the past is part of the impetus for this post. Whether letting go comes first or last is of no consequence, once it’s learned great healing can take place in our relationship to the divine. Devotion is trusting that we have the power of inner guidance, that it can never truly leave us so that when we turn off the tape loop we lose nothing, the power of insight will still be there. Devotion is an understanding that the bliss of mindfulness can be only be felt by returning to the breath over and over again.
Truly, in order to physically breathe, we must be willing to let go of the old to make space for the new. If we live fully in the present moment, the mysteries of yesterday will gradually unravel for us.
Release fears so you can retrieve your spirit.
Curiously, Myss was the first to introduce the Christian sacrament of Extreme Unction to me. She compares it to the Hindu crown chakra and describes it as a process of releasing things that pull at one’s consciousness such as regrets about words that should or shouldn’t have been spoken. This process of retrieving the spirit releases fears of the physical world, often before death, and helps one focus on transcendental needs to pursue a relationship with the divine.
Very early on I was blessed with a teacher well versed in the power of releasing the past and living in the infinitely malleable present moment. I learned so much from him that I can’t help but be grateful. Granted, a lot of these things weren’t the ones he thought he was teaching me, but he didn’t see how fast I learned and that most of his drunken bed-time stories I already knew. My father was two different people before and after dinner. To this day, I know better than to answer his calls after six pm. His temper was inescapable after the tonic and gin were uncapped and though his tirades and accusations changed my life, he was always blissful, stoic and calm the next morning when I would wake for school and find him with his usual coffee and paper. There was never an acknowledgement, never mind an apology.
I am grateful to be the daughter of an alcoholic.
If Live in the Present Moment is the lesson to be learned from the flow of energy though this chakra, this teacher handed me the assignment at a very young age. He taught me — unintentionally, he is and will always be truly delusional about much of our past — what it looked like to construct your own reality and how we are all the designers of our own world. It took me ten years to receive the lesson but he never stopped teaching it. In the same way it also permitted him to forget shouting, “Pack your shit and get out!” one night when I was fifteen, his exquisite narcissism allows him to neither see nor take any of the personal responsibility he holds for the person I have become. And I wouldn’t have it any other way because he taught me forgiveness too.
I learned to be old before I had time to be young.
As is to be expected, my parents’ divorce fractured and reorganized my entire world. The equal time spent between Mom’s and Dad’s houses meant that neither of my unparented parents had the time necessary to provide the needed support for my younger brother and I. With not one single bright spirit in the world around me, my dark night began. My father was intently strict about my role as The Child in our relationship but my mothering instincts (strengthened by my Cancerian connection to the moon) were called upon more strongly as I became the only stationary thing in my six-year-old brother’s life.
I have been blessed with disasters.
This kind of reidentification has occurred in many forms and by many catalysts throughout human history — HIV, cancer, death, loss of livelihood, geographical relocation — and would happen to me once more after ten years of darkness had passed and I needed another good shaking to climb back out of the hole. Growing up between two homes which I moved between every two or five days, depending on the day, it was not optional that I would shift focus from tribal, externally defined rules, to personal, individually oriented roles. It is with much distance that I can say the following sentence: I was blessed to be thrust into spiritual and societal adolescence at such an early age.
Spiritual crisis has three common symptoms.
This, at the age of nine, was the time when I was to begin my Spiritual Crisis which would last until I was twenty-two. Here are my stages which line up almost unbelievably well with Myss’ observation in the book:
1. Absence of meaning and purpose: At the age of ten my friends and I organized a school-wide Sock Hop to raise $2,000 for the fire department to buy a thermal imaging device. I was often seen during planning running around as if I myself was on fire.
2. Strange new fears: Who am I, child or mother? If I don’t know even that answer, how can I decide what it is I want out of life? Later I would say that I didn’t need to have children because I had already raised one. Today, I realized I want to raise four children with the man I love.
3. Need to experience devotion to something greater than you: Education became the most important thing in life. Learning was my way to stay in touch with a source of miracles and hope in the way that some go to church.
Every time we touch Truth, our connection grows stronger.
Although I remember the feelings and stress of coping quite well, I know it was rougher than I realize from the fact that virtually all of my family memories have been self-obliviated. I am prepared to spend the rest of my life waiting for those formative memories to resurface with their lessons. Therein lies the key, here is what sums up twenty-three years of learning: I will be waiting for that divine light, not searching for it in the past. I know that the only place to touch pure truth is in this present moment and every time I return to it, our connection grows stronger.
So there you have it, my take on the first of seven life lessons we all have to learn. What an exercise this was in vulnerability AND creativity! Double whammy. Thanks for reading. Tune in next time for “Seek only truth: What others think of you is none of your business” to read the gory details of a third-eye awakening.