I recall events from my twenties, with a kind of abstract vision, as if the memories were somehow implanted in my brain without emotion. It seems like the decade of my twenties came and went with a numb participation. I began the decade working in central London, and the party lifestyle that goes along with been a young twenty-year old with disposable income. By the time I reached thirty, I was restless, bored, unhappy and looking at a way out of my marriage of three years. The intervening years were a fog, it was like an unknown tenant took over my mind and I fell into a coma. My thirties and forties were all about evicting that tenant.
I was thirty-three when I had my first real break through moment. I was travelling for work when I pulled over by the river to eat my lunch. I was reading a passage from a book a friend gave me after my divorce, a spiritual book which at the time, passed over my head. I sat looking absently at the water when I felt my chest open, my heart seemed to be expanding. At first, I was frightened, thinking it was cardiac arrest. I pulled my mobile phone out of my bag but there was no signal. I heard ‘Just Breathe’. Where did that come from I wondered? I closed my eyes, waiting for the inevitable heart attack and I heard it again ‘Just breathe’. And so, I focused on breathing, in and out, in and out, rapidly at first, then I fell into a slow pattern of breathing and I relaxed. My mind fell completely silent for the first time ever and something wholly pure and still emerged from that silence; it was the ‘I’ that had been asleep for all those years, while the tenant wrecked the joint, leaving a trail of wreckage in her wake.
The doctor checked me over and told me I had a panic-attack. He recommended I see a counsellor to unravel the past. The tenant moved back in and said ‘no way’ and off ‘I’ fell asleep again… but not for long. I realised I had to face the mess made by the tenant, after all I opened the door of my house (mind) when she knocked with a suitcase full of my karma. She was going nowhere until the suitcase was unpacked. For much of my thirties, I lived with the tenant (ego), only now I was aware of her. I knew there was no getting rid of her until I unpacked my karma. That, as they say, is easier said than done. I tried to avoid particularly painful memories stored in the karmic suitcase, which had the effect of giving the tenant the upper hand. The old ‘me’ would return with gusto feeding off the karmic resistance and so, I had a parallel existence, one of meditation, healing and reading spiritual and self-books, while the other one fed off her friends’ dramas, work dramas and taking no responsibility for any wrong-doing. My house (mind) was full of clutter moved from one pile to another pile awaiting a proper clear-out.
About five years after my initial awakening by the river, I had another breakthrough. After a brief relationship, I noticed that the mental turmoil was more acute that the emotional fallout. I realised I hadn’t cried over a relationship, or any other ending for several years. Instead of crying, my mind went into overdrive with nonsensical thoughts, obsessing over trivial matters. As I lay in bed at 3 am with no sign of sleep, I began to rant at the universe, or whoever was ‘out there’. Having nothing to lose, I figured if it worked for Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God) it might work for me. Once again, my chest started to expand, only this time I wasn’t afraid, I recognised the sensation. My heart was releasing pure emotion, that is, feeling that was not attached to thought, just pure sensation. Afterwards, I fell into a deep sleep and had one of those dreams where you are soaring above the earth. It was an incredible feeling of freedom until just before waking, I landed knee deep in cow dung outside the cowshed on the farm where I grew up. A clear message from the universe where to clean-up first.
I realised that Neale Donald Walsch was on to something, and so I began journaling, a journey into my subconscious, writing down my frustrations, fears and anxieties as a way to unravel the unfelt emotions within me. For the next couple of years, I went through half a dozen A4 pads and countless boxes of tissues as I wrote, and felt, my way out of the past. I unpacked my karma item by item, sometimes it was too much and I had to wait until I felt stronger to face it. Little by little, I unravelled the secret of karma, the universal Law of Cause and Effect. By feeling the effect of my past actions (Cause) I was able to regain consciousness, to see, hear, feel the world around me with new clarity. It wasn’t easy, there were many painful endings as I had to let go of relationships and friendships made by the tenant, and leave a job that made me unhappy to face an uncertain future.
If I were to give any advice to my younger self, I would tell her to take responsibility for her actions, to honour her emotions, that the brave thing is to cry, and to be kind to others. I would tell her selfishness is a poison, as is jealousy and gossip. I hope she’d listen, more importantly I’d hope she’d act and steer her course towards empathy and compassion. But alas, I can’t go back, but if my twenties thought me anything, it is this; you can’t live your life without consequence, if you ignore the cause of your actions on yourself and others, your ability to express emotion and think clearly becomes impaired, leaving you continually anxious and devoid of empathy. This is karma. You will find a stranger in the mirror, someone who replaces your true self. This tenant remains until every last impact of karma is felt, until humility replaces arrogance and joy replaces guilt.
It’s a work in progress, but I am the sole occupier of my mind, and one day when this body becomes ash, I will take to the sky and tell a broken, lonely soul sitting in a car by the river, or standing on the ledge of the abyss, to ‘Just Breathe’.