Saturday, November 3, 2012

exiting a well-intentioned highway to hell

I started out with the best intentions, I did - but you know how that goes.

After getting stuck in the familiar pattern of looking at the people around me and then comparing my life to theirs - and using the dissimilarities I saw as "proof" of my inherent worthlessness, I told myself that I was once and for all (I love how many "once and for all's" there have been!) going to get clear what I'm doing with my life, so that I can make some substantial progress and finally be done playing the not-good enough game with all of its endless comparisons. After all, once I get clear about who I am and where I intend to go, what's going on with others will cease to matter...
I'm assuming. 

The plan was to shut out the world, disconnect from friends, and focus on myself. With no distractions and no worrisome social interactions to feed my sense of inadequacy, surely spending an indefinite period of time in mindful retreat would help me get to the bottom of things, right? That would do the trick, right? Nope. Not so much. 

I envisioned taking time away, spending my days in quiet, with hours on end in meditation - and the hours not in meditation would be spent in a thoughtful designing of my ideal life. I was going to sit down and figure out what I wanted most for myself and then go through all of the self-defeating and fearful concepts that stood between me and it, one by one, bringing them to the light of inquiry, courtesy of The Work. Instead, what I ended up doing, not entirely unconsciously, was using retreat - read, isolating myself from the scary world - as an escape disguised as something potentially very nourishing to my soul. The utter sense of safety I felt should have been a clue that something screwy was going on.

No longer feeling exposed, no longer having to face my perceived inadequacies, I began to relax and suddenly the urgency I'd felt to better myself and my situation dissolved. It went right out the window. I just stopped trying. I stopped my conscious eating, I stopped exercising, I stopped imagining the good. I  totally reverted to my old lack of discipline and the snow ball began all over again. I got really depressed. I found myself back in the same patterns of mental hell I've been trying to transcend for the past two years now.

Fortunately, Spirit doesn't let up once you've committed yourself to it and I wasn't able to get by with it like I was in the past. Long story short: I can't do that again, I just can't. Isolating myself can no longer be an option for me. Moments, hours, days of solitude are fine in themselves. In fact, I need them; they refresh me. But until I'm so firmly rooted in my Vision that the stormy thoughts can't upend me, going it alone just doesn't seem to work for me.

I've been back socializing with friends again for over a month now and I know that being around kind souls and engaging with the world is where my most purifying growth will come from. I'm learning my lesson, I am - but apparently, I'm a slow learner. Good news is I've taken the off-ramp, headed where I know I need to be heading, taking with me some insights that I didn't have before I took this ill-advised trip. 

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