Is awakening easy?

No, but it’s worth it. I think what fascinated me when I starting looking at the process of awakening is how we think what we see out there is “reality”. It is reality of a kind, but it’s our reality. Our reality with all our preconceived ideas, filters and beliefs bolted on as well.

An analogy would would be say – wearing a ski mask. When you have the mask on, all you can see is the inside of the mask and the outside world through the lens. Take the mask off, and hold it in front of you and you can see, not only the view through the mask but also the area around the mask. So more information comes in and is available to the “viewer”

This can be pretty overwhelming at first as we can cling pretty hard to the “what we see is what we get” mantra. I’ve seen many patients over the years who have come in to see me in a bit of state because they have experimented with psychedelic drugs and suddenly opened up their world of reality and they haven’t been able to incorporate it or make sense of it. This doesn’t happen to everyone but can certainly occur.

Usually these people will be treated for anxiety or more rarely bipolar as the stress of the experience can manifest in the pressure of speech and flight of ideas that occur in the acute phase of mania.

I remember one lady who had experienced quite a quick awakening following the use of LSD. She subsequently reported to doctors that she could intuit peoples’ intentions. This can certainly happen with people who are highly awake and present and in touch with their own processes. However, it was viewed as a psychotic phenomenon and she was medicated. Personally I don’t believe she was psychotic as she functioned fairly well in other aspects of her life. She was turning up to work, running a home and managing to look after her kids. Gradually she learnt to use her new found gifts in a quiet way and she became a very skilled therapist and counsellor

Personally, I found change to be challenging. I had well-worn ways of doing things and to be able to look at some of the medical processes that were going on – over reliance on drugs / over reliance on guidelines / heavy drug industry sponsorship and realise that in many cases, these were not the way forward and were not helping the patient to get better. Once I saw this, I had to change my role and practice but also watch carefully that I practiced in a way that was fitting with the regulatory authorities of my country. This was important because we have to keep patients safe.

But what if it becomes too rigid and our patients fail to get better. What if they are harmed by drug side effects or develop a resistant infection through the use of unnecessary antibiotics? To help people heal can require a dose of creativity which is not accommodated for in the rigidity of western medical practice

Waking up and seeing things more clear as perhaps they are is enlightening but scary at times. It’s harder and stand back and do nothing. It makes it easier to people to find and practice what truly makes sense for them. In the service of others, it allows more connection, more creativity and perhaps a greater social conscience

Less me and more us

The edge of my world

My name is Lily. I work as a family physician. My practice is situated close to a university and many of my patients are college students. I never set out to go on this path. It kind of all started in 2014. Well it had started before then, but I’ll cover that in a later blog. I’d booked to go on a medical communications course. I’d been following the teacher running the course for a couple of years and had read his book. I turned up with the expectation that I would learn something useful to help me communicate more effectively with my patients. I wasn’t really going for self development. At that time in my life I lived mainly in my head. I loved reading and cramming my memory with all sorts of facts. It was an addiction. I didn’t realise this at the time, it was just what I did. I think others found me quite irritating as I was one of those people who talks too much and wants everyone else to know how much THEY know. I felt more comfortable that way. Call it imposter syndrome – whatever, I was deeply insecure.

Anyway we had an exercise to do and of course I volunteered to go up to the front. The course organiser asked me if I had any issues? (well is the Pope Catholic?). I’ll try and steer away from bad cliches in future. I mentioned that I often experienced this really unpleasant feeling at the base of my sternum. It was so unpleasant that if it turned up when I was trying to work, I would be distracted by it and it would get in the way of consulting with patients. I’d even taken antidepressants to try and quell its strength (to some benefit). It was like an unwanted dinner guest. My colleague asked me to step back, observe it and just allow it to be there. This seemed too simplistic but I went along with it as I trusted him.

Something really odd happened then which changed the course of my life. As I observed the sensation, I felt it move, initially up into my chest, and then it became expansive and spread quickly into my extremities. As the same time it went from feeling unpleasant to ecstatic. Something shifted, all self-consciousness melted away and I felt connected to everyone in the room. It didn’t last long, but it changed me. I couldn’t understand how something so unpleasant (that I’d drugged in the past), could morph into something like that. And there was something else that happened, that I didn’t really have the words for at the time. This is often one of the features of these sorts of experiences is that people can’t find the words. If I were to describe it now, I kind of saw the “edge” of my world. I had this sense that my issues and problems and neuroticisms were small fry and there was a much bigger sense of expansiveness out there. And from that moment, I continued to read and search for information about “awakenings”. It became a hobby, almost an obsession. Little did I know, there was no-where really to go. I was, in a way, already there.