It’s been ten years since I began making regular pilgrimages to Asia. That is where I learned about spiritual practices, participated in various retreats, explored the Himalayas, and visited ashrams, sacred caves, and spiritual masters. Asia was also where I chose to explore psychoactive substances in ceremonial spaces, discovering the intoxicating sensation of The Infinite.
It is the feelingless feeling of The Boundless One, the fragrance of which is pure joy, and the outcome of which is a state of flow. A state in which there is no separation, no failures, no problems, no beginnings and no endings. The dimension of Forever and Always. Once this dimension is recognized, some obvious questions arise - why do I only get to experience The Timeless for a short time, why not always? Why can I not experience the boundless dimension in a world defined by constant limitations and boundaries? How can I find this place of total clarity while living in a world of never-ending confusion? How can I find peace in the midst of an abhorrent war?
As is frequently the case in spiritual communities, I found myself ignoring and avoiding the “lower vibrations” of the human world, committing to residing exclusively in the “highest realms.” This meant that I would avoid cold BDSM dungeons, discussing money, negotiating boundaries, dealing with taxes, becoming involved in politics, having difficult conversations, feeling anger and rage, and anything that had to do with two of my least favorite words - ‘commitment’ and ‘sales.” My living arrangements reflected this, too. I lived without an official residence, renting out short-term housing and staying with friends. I also stayed away from committed relationships in order to avoid becoming attached to people and places (and they to me). Free sex for all please! I was also frequently late to appointments because, ultimately, time doesn’t exist, right? We are all infinite, limitless, and things should always just flow!
Eventually, I came to resent my humanness, this realm of limitation, confusion, pain and trauma. I wanted to fly high, both literally (I am a skydiver) and figuratively, I wanted to be above it all. Hindu mystics say that everything is Maya, illusion, while Ram Dass asserts that “the game is about becoming Nobody.” Persons are somebodies. And so, without my noticing, I began to despise humanness and to regard it as a constraint that must be overcome. Eventually, however, humanness would catch up with me.
After an hour of being still in meditation, body aches and the desire to pee set in. Following each joyful falling in love, each one-love pill there is always a period of separation and heartbreak. Wingsuit BASE jumpers who truly push the limits of human potential end up crashing sooner or later. No matter how self-sufficient and sovereign we become, our bodies are destined to disintegrate. And once we reach a certain age, no matter how much botox we inject, we still end up wrinkled and dependent on others to change our diapers. “I’d better die BASE jumping, quickly and in the midst of my highest High and avoid the alternative of being old in a wheelchair watching cancer cells consume my body,” I used to reason.
A recent MDMA journey was intended to transport me to the Infinite Love, and it did. For a few minutes. After that, it exposed me, with the excruciating pain of a thousand heartbreaks. I was sobbing on the floor screaming into the heavens - Why, why?!! Why is there so much heartbreak on the road to Love? Why is there still so much duality when all I want is unity? Why am I filled with rage, pain, trauma, and confusion when all I want is peace?
Just before I left him, my ex told me, “Give it some time, you’ll mature and grow out of that silly enlightenment chase.” What if he was right?
During one tough life transition, no matter how much I meditated, I still had panic attacks and sleepless nights. When I couldn’t bear the emotional pain and couldn’t seem to maintain my sanity, I even considered antidepressants. During that time period, all of my spiritual knowledge–“it’s all Maya, just be Nobody” or “just meditate through this”–was rendered useless. No amount of sublime wisdom will suffice once the reptilian brain takes over. In such a state, all that’s required is safety, rest, food, and sometimes even antidepressants and sleeping pills to help you bear the unbearable. Even the most spiritual people commit suicide. These realizations finally humbled me, bringing me to my knees and making me bow down deeply to the mess that is being human.
No matter how high I fly, I am a human, and bound to exist in the realm of human beings, warts (and cum and wars) and all. No matter how much healing I do, I’m still going to co-exist with that wounded and needy child in me. That fragile and tender soul will be looking for love until the final breath. And that gentle soul is also me. A very precious me. The one bound by time, it turns out, is just as precious as the timeless one.
Enlightenment is not about the condemnation of and escape from the lower human realms. Enlightenment is the realization that Ram Dass’s most profound Sat Sang is no different than the dirt under Putin’s shoes. And integrating Enlightenment into everyday life is all about learning to love and use ordinary, human things, especially those that repel and stress us the most – sales, money, taxes, commitment, attachment, time, boundaries, and all manner of vulnerabilities.