The delight of the real

Rather than mushrooms / psilocybin, I’m going to use LSD for my next therapy session.

LSD is cheaper and easier to obtain, but also more deeply affecting even at the equivalent dose, and much longer lasting (up to 12 hours, rather than 4-6) – which makes it a bit less tractable as a psychedelic of choice. I’ve a full day slated for it, rather than a few hours. We’ll see how it goes.

Having never taken LSD in my life, I thought it prudent to take a small sample dose when I first obtained it, to get a feel for the drug. I feel quite confident with psychedelics now (I have a rough idea of the terrain, as it were); using the internationally recognised alcohol inebriation equivalence scale, I’d say I took enough to get me ‘a bit tipsy’.

This is a slice of my experience of that small, 100ug dose. At this dose there was a slight degree of visual distortion (irridescence and ‘breathing’), but only noticable when I paid attention. It was a light, clear, and pleasant experience, albeit one which came with a bit of a headache.

The Delight of the Real

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver, ‘Wild Geese’

 
It comes on unexpectedly, suddenly; subtly

Sat in the front room, an hour after dosing, wondering if I’m going to feel anything at all.

It comes on with a laugh; surprise, delight, escaping from my heart my throat my mouth, into the air into the room, bouncing briefly from the walls, the bookshelf, the houseplants the windows.

The world suddenly a delight. And nothing changed yet everything new, everything shining. Everything singing.

It had always shone. It had always been singing. But only now, only now with surprise and delight, I noticed; only now did I notice again.


conkers

I remember – I would have been 4 – being in a park with my family, autumn. I remember leaf mould, and yellow brown and red leaves on the ground, I remember conkers – conkers!, big and bold, opulent.

But no, no I don’t remember leaf mould and autumn leaves and conkers, these are words and ideas, all greased with ghosts and memories, but THIS, I remember THIS, the bold, beautiful THISNESS of the world, primary colours and rich textures and a world both open and endless and yet somehow also enfolding and intimate. In this memory, the world shines. It sings.


I laugh, brief; a burst of surprise, the shock of the new. Sunlight pours through the bay windows and sets the green and white of the spider plant alight; the warm wood floor calls out, lines and whorls, stretching luxurious across the room. The room… the room! Here all the time yet somehow never before met. Another laugh, another burst of wonder, the old white paint of the walls, the crack running across the ceiling, this tiny slice of the universe, shining and living and being, and me just another part of it, no more lost or precious than the spiderweb by the doorframe, the knot of cables by the television, the houseplant, on fire, by the window.

I am no longer the centre of my universe, and I have no way of telling you how blessed a feeling this is.

Eager, I lace up my trainers – trainers! Laces! Green and black and blue, playful fabric threads folded over and under, The THISNESS of them sparkles, not laces but fabric threads, rough-soft to touch, that can be woven this way and that and turned on themselves just so, to keep soft rubber bound to my feet. Trainers! Laces!

Eager, I lace up my trainers and head to the park, 30 seconds walk from my front door.

And the SKY…

The SKY

The wheeling of gulls in the unbounded SKY, the light playing, playing on the lake. The people, the trees, the ducks pattering about on the paving. I stand delighted, the horizon rising up into the distant hills, the city beyond, the clouds, the sun, the SKY, this gorgeous opulent world, and all of it singing, singing as it always is and has been.

The breeze – the joy of the wind, the way the air itself can dance, can pull you along too, calling let’s play, let’s play, lets dance for the joy of yet another gifted day! – the breeze whirls around me and, embraced by the endless open world, I am no longer the centre of my universe.

I have no way of telling you how blessed a feeling this is.

Because I no longer matter. Because the world is bold, and gorgeous, opulent and glorious and absurd, and has no need of me. This universe will carry on in glory long after I am gone, just as it did long before I or any other human soul was born.

For the first time in a very, very long time, I am meeting the world honestly, on it’s own terms, and far from my human world or words; far from the space where everything is turned however subtly into a story about myself.

The universe is the universe, on it’s own terms, and is infinitely complex and varied, from the laces on my trainers and the knot of cables by the television, to the flight of geese against the glory of the sky. I do not matter.

I can breathe easy. I do not matter.

clouds-country-countryside-414308.jpg

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Holding on to breath

It’s a strange place, inside my soul right now.

Every recently day I’ve had moments – hours – where I’ve been so blue I’m black. Mostly, I try to sleep. Sometimes, I do things that are a clear danger sign. But I’ve people visiting from today until next week, so I’m safe now.

There’s nothing new in that. I’ve made attempts before, landed in hospital before. This time there’s a brutal grinding quality to it – I think born from exhaustion, the way this wears to you down after so many years. I’m just tired of it now. So this is far from new; it’s old, and worn; begging to be broken.

But there’s something else, this time.

I broke through it before. I know I broke through it. I remember how it’s shaped, I remember the words I used to describe it and while I knew they were imperfect they were also the best words I had to contain it.

I spoke with one of the ordained Buddhists at the centre a few weeks ago. I told her that in all my depression and grief I was so scared because I was falling apart and my life was falling apart and then… then I realised it was always, forever falling apart; there’s nothing to hold on to; all the suffering comes from trying to put together the pieces of a perfect life, in ignorance thinking that life is something you could ever grasp. That we could ever hold on to breath.

I told her I realised I was standing firm on ever-changing chaos. Everyone is. And there was joy in the peace of it, the realisation of it.

And now in this black and crushing space I still have all those words but they’re broken containers, most of the meaning spilled out and sunk to the earth.

It’s a strange place inside my soul right now. Like being kicked out of the garden.


Although it is bright, there are no objects of illumination

The Discourse Record of Chan Master Hongzhi

It came after the psychedelics. Buddhism prepared the soil and nurtured it afterwards, but the revelation came from psychedelics.

Psychedelics provide something of an afterglow effect for 4-6 weeks after the dose, but this breakthrough rolled on long after that, and if anything it grew deeper, more textured, richer. I guess I just have deep wounds, still prone to opening up and swallowing me.

I can’t afford any more shrooms right now. Anyway, I can’t take any while I’m this deep black, and I’d prefer to have someone with me when I do… all these things mean it’s a tricky solution for me and not something I can reach for immediately.

So I’m caught in this strange dark space, remembering only vaguely the shape of something so much greater, so open, something as invisible and bright as light in a void. Often – when I’m at my deepest – it all seems like a lie I’m telling myself to comfort my blistering sense of failure and shame, regret and loss. Why would I want to return to a lie? My life is, materially, a fucking mess; and it’s getting worse. Have you any idea how strong that siren song is that draws me to jagged rocks? I could finally leave behind all this failure and shame, regret and loss. My life is, materially, a fucking mess; and it’s getting worse.

I don’t want to swim forever – I don’t want to fight the tide

I don’t want to swim the ocean – when it’s cold I’d like to die

Moby

Friends tell me that it won’t always be this way, that things will get better. They don’t get it; this isn’t a fight between pessimism and optimism, but a fight between reality and fantasy. The only winning move is acceptance.

Acceptance is a hard move. But ultimately it’s the only one open to us, other than quitting the game. And I know this. I have the shape of it in my mind but it’s far away, and murky, and unbelievable. From here it looks not just hard but impossible, and the rocks are so much nearer, so solid, so simple. The sirens are singing, and all I have to fight against them is love, and the shape of something forgotten.


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And this snow will cleanse the sky

Snow’s falling.


It’s strange, having your feet planted so firmly on the ground, then looking around to find the earth you stand on isn’t what you remember it to be. And I feel strange, unlike I’ve ever felt before. Both more solid and lighter than I can ever remember being.

I think

I think

I think we build up ideas of who we are and who we want to be, and it’s only a dream but we confuse it with the real. We build up a personality, a character, an ego out of our ideas about we are and who we want others to think we are. We form opinions and beliefs and ambitions, and clinging to the coat tails of these come regret, pride, hope. And this ego is only a dream but it’s a dream that explains away our world and our life; a storyline we cling to to make sense of the chaos of it all.

I think that when that self is threatened we feel pain, and we cling to it like a branch in a flood; and as it begins to break apart we grasp and lash and howl, believing we are in danger, believing we are disintegrating. But it’s only our selves, only our ego. It was only ever a dream; and in the dawn it’s less substantial than ash on the wind.

I wanted this life to be so different. It was never meant to be like this, it was meant to be PhD and research science and living in London with all my mates, it was meant to be material sucess because that’s what everyone else I  know from uni has got, in their £40k+ careers and winter breaks to Dubai and honeymoons in Thailand. I was meant to be one of those gays whos fallen in love with Iceland and goes every year, with a boyfriend and a dog and a pub quiz and maybe an ocassional well managed chemsex habit on every third weekend of the month.

Not this. Not late 30s and living in my mum and dad’s attic, no career, a mess of a CV, no savings and over £10,000 gambling debts from a brutal bipolar episode which nearly killed me. Twice. Not living so far from my friends, lonely, working as a temp and getting minimum wage. My trainers are scratty and need replacing and I only have one pair of jeans – I can only afford one pair of jeans! I’m 37 FFS.

Last year I was howling. I was fucking howling as everything I’d worked for and tried for, all my hopes and everything I pinned any sense of pride or confidence or achievement to, it all crumbled around me and inside me and screaming I grasped for it, tears stinging my eyes as I clutched my face every morning, weeping, weeping in grief and shame and guilt at the ruin that I was becoming, this landscape all ash and grease, and hate.

I grasped and lashed and howled, believing my soul was in danger, believing my life was disintegrating. But it was only my ego, it was only ever a dream; only ash on the wind.

Snow’s falling, in the cold freshwater light of dawn.


I’m thinking of moving; I’d rather live in Manchester or London. I’ve been in Sheffield three years now – three years! Three years life on hold, three years psychiatric convalesece, three years not moving, just in limbo! Time to move on. Get on with life.

But it’s strange, having my feet planted so firmly on the ground, to look around and find the earth I stand on isn’t what I remember it to be.

I’m thinking of moving, because I’d rather live in Manchester or London. But I caught my breath the other day when I realised there’s nothing much between living here and living there.

I’ve got amazing friends who have seen me through so much and put up with so much, a family I love more than I can ever hope to say, and almost all the people I’ve ever loved are still living. I’m late 30s and living in my mum and dad’s attic, no career, a mess of a CV, no savings and over £10,000 gambling debts. And I think I’m one of the most contented people on this sad old earth.

Wherever I live, I’ll be standing on this earth with this life. And that’s fine. It has to be fine, because whatever will be will be, and the world doesn’t care for my desires; the world goes its own way.

I’ve had three major psychiatric incidents from my haywire brain and it’s nearly killed me, my god the last one sunk into a sickness deep in my soul and it so nearly killed me.

But it didn’t.

It only burned away all the illusions I held about who I am and what life is, what makes us who we are and what makes life worth living.

Snow’s falling.

The only thing real is this, see? Not tomorrow and not yesterday, not the career and not the retirement plan, not the holiday or the qualifications or the pride, or the guilt. Only this, not the regret, not the aspiration, not their opinions or our fears. We only have here, now, this; this breath, this heartbeat, this moment. And even then, the instant we have it, it’s gone. Because the world doesn’t belong to us; we’re only moments.

I wish

I wish I could explain this better.


Snow’s falling.

Cold light of dawn.

 

Better

So I’m better.

Somehow solid again, more real. Somehow my feet planted firmly on the ground.

I don’t know how I got here. There was and is meditation, and psychedelics, but they all came as I was settling down anyway. Maybe they’ve kept me here, where better is. Maybe I would be fine without them.

I’m better.

I’m better and I look back on 2017, and it’s white noise, or a picture I can’t quite focus. A person I can’t quite remember being, tho I remember the things he thought and the things he did.

I’m better, and for the very first time I feel like I’m not just better, but wiser. More sure footed. I don’t know how I got here. Maybe it’s the meditation, maybe it’s the psychedelics.

I have regrets, you know? All these regrets, for how my life has turned out and the endless list of mistakes I’ve made. Frustration at not being where I’d hoped, the usual self recrimination and grief. Anger a how my mental health has disrupted and distorted my life, left me living far from friends and the city I loved and used to call home.

But so what? That’s life, and life is sad sometimes. That’s OK.

I have so many friends, and a loving family, and I’m healthy enough that I can go walk in the world, and feel the cold air on my skin, and breathe. And in that moment, there’s peace.

None of these things will last, and we have only a few heartbeats to call our own in this world. Life is sad sometimes, because life is loss. That’s OK. In this moment, there’s peace.

I’ve tried to kill myself. 3 times. I must have hurt so much, I must have been so lost and so afraid and felt so alone. Maybe I’ll try again, if I ever again get that lost and afraid and alone. I hope not. No one should ever feel that bad. I can’t imagine. I literally can’t imagine how it must feel.

The rain lashed down all night last night, hammering on my windows and keeping me awake. By morning, the exhausted sky was slate gray, and white water blue, ghostly. Starlings chattered in the park, gulls swept overhead.

The world is astonishing. I can’t imagine ever wanting to leave.

Why I meditate

zenAs I say, I’ve recently taken to meditating; every morning, sometimes in the afternoon, evening.

It’s been a month, more or less. Who knows if I’ll keep it up? I don’t even know why, initially, I started. I sure as hell wasn’t expecting it to do anything other than give me half an hour relaxation a day, half an hour ‘me time’. Half an hour sat like those slim white women (always slim, always white, always women) on the covers of books and magazines and in all the stock photography, with closed eyes and that irritatingly beautific expression beaming from the shelves and the screens and the pages of Yoga Today.

OK. I don’t sit like them. I am in some ways preternaturally flexible (hello boys), but I can’t quite comfortably manage a full lotus position – feet on thighs, pelvis square on the floor, stable, strong. I can drag my legs most of the way, and hold the pose out of sheer bloody mindedness while my  feet slide down and my ankles end up twisted at an angle that can’t be healthy (and certainly doesn’t feel it), and maybe even stay like that for a full 10 minutes while my legs go numb and my upper back starts to howl, but eventually I have to admit that I will never be a slim white woman.

Besides, I meditate zen-style. Eyes open.

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