I had sunk so low I was barely functioning. Staring blankly at the screen, distracting myself with television, numbing myself with food, sometimes with alcohol too. Pretty lost again.
I’d had a longstanding invitation to return to Penninghame House in Scotland to take Step 2 of the Process but I was balking. What was the point, I thought? I knew it would trigger me, make me look long, hard and honest at my thoughts, my life and I simply didn’t have the energy for that. I was almost proud of the level of my suffering. Poor poor poor me. I was so unlucky; life was so unfair; the cards were stacked against me, weren’t they?
Anyhow, surely it should have worked the first time? Except…it had. It had only been in the last month or so that I had lost sight of myself. Still I made excuses – I couldn’t afford to get there, I reasoned, so that was that.
Don’t be a whiny little shit, Jane, I told myself. I checked the flights and, well, would you believe it – they cost a fraction of the coach fare – and someone could give me a lift from Glasgow. So I pulled out my weary credit card and booked.
The first time I went to Penninghame, the Process tore me apart. I sobbed so hard I broke all the capillaries around my eyes. I screamed so loudly I lost my voice. It was a huge deep powerful catharsis of all the shit I had inherited from generations before me, of all the crap that had swirled around me, of all the negative beliefs I had taken on myself.* I left feeling purged, cleaner, stronger. However I had a suspicion there was still more that needed to come out – and, yes, there were a few more revelations, a fair bit more grief and hurt that needed bringing up from the basement into the light for recognition. But while Step 1 is all about healing the past, Step 2 is more about deepening awareness, about taking responsibility for your own state of mind and wellbeing, and moving into the future. They call it an advanced self-awareness course.
Where had I gone wrong? I’d stopped my daily practice. I’d stopped meditating, I’d stopped taking responsibility for my own state of mind. I’d allowed myself to collapse into suffering. For we do have a choice, we always do. Is it the events of the past that are causing us suffering today? No, they’re long gone. It’s our thoughts about the events that cause our suffering.
Apparently we have 50-100,000 thoughts a day. The mind is always thinking, and the majority of those thoughts are negative fantasies. We don’t train our awareness, we don’t have alertness of attention. And we wonder why our lives aren’t working?
Yes, things will happen that aren’t great. In fact really shitty things can happen but still…we can choose whether to collapse into ‘poor me’ syndrome or whether simply to observe the thoughts, the beliefs, the bodily sensations connected with the pain we feel. Is it hard? Yes, it can be. But it’s far less painful than collapsing ourselves into misery and disconnection.
It’s tough to distill the process of coming out of suffering in a simple blog post. In an ideal world I’d say go to Penninghame and do the whole process – it’s a true gift to yourself. This place is a not-for-profit organisation – they barely cover their costs on these courses. They all have normal everyday jobs and volunteer their time. The team is impeccable.
However, I’ll share a few of the insights and techniques they teach over the next few days.
For now, for me – I’m back. I’m not saying the pain isn’t still there, and the difficult circumstances are certainly still there – but I’m working on dissolving my negative thoughts and fears around them, coming back to the present moment which, after all, is all we truly have.
* This was just my experience, I’d hasten to add. Some people have a pretty peaceful process, with no need for all the high dramatics!