I have been asked what it is like going mad. What I went through was indescribable in the truest sense of the word – I know that even I have completely lost touch with how awful it was and I was the one who went through it. Communicating it to other people feels almost impossible.
When I talk about it most people don’t have the capacity to even listen to what I have been through, because it is so awful, never mind imagine it.
I essentially detached from the normal timeline of life. My way of processing experience became completely unhinged from a normal human way of being in the world.
The closest I have heard others describe something similar is an Ayahuasca or Bufo trip. I have done a lot of intense psychedelics and it was like being at the peak of a trip for two years with no escape, while I was in fact completely sober.
This was obviously completely destabilising, but it gave me access to a way of being solely in the present moment. This gave me a freedom to meet all experience in a way that wasn’t so attached to how things normally have to happen in order for them to make sense and make an impact on someone.
My being was processing and rewiring itself based on the conversations I was having with people in my head or the emotions and shamanic journeys that were being channeled through me, for example. Every moment was meaningful in a way that was completely overwhelming but that meant that it felt like I lived years of life in just a few days.
It was exhausting and excruciating.
For several weeks after reaching my worst state of consciousness, every single day I would go through at least one shift in consciousness that left me feeling so much better than the day before that I couldn’t comprehend how I had been able to survive in the previous state. The worst of it must have been unimaginably awful.
I would count seconds to stop myself committing suicide. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I was completely out of touch with what reality was anymore and had an unshakeable conviction that the only way out of it was to keep going.
I feel that it’s important for me to talk openly about this aspect of it. Not as a martyr, but in the spirit of truth and open-hearted honesty about why the spiritual path is hard.
The truth is that reality is a cluster fuck of chaos, trauma, difficult relationships and stuff that we don’t want to be present with. What I went through was a process of integrating every part of reality ‘as it is’ – I was faced with the raw emotional truth of every part of experience.
The process of integrating all the shadows, trauma or karma was horrific. But now I have done it I am able to hold space for pretty much anything.
Anything that paints reality or the present moment as some kind of perfect suffering-free zone is a lie. The reason people can’t be present is not because they are misperceiving what life is, but because life is genuinely hard and painful for people.
This difficulty resonates through our energies, our history, our physical bodies, our emotional worlds and the way we perceive each other, ourselves and the world. It infuses every aspect of our being.
If we want spirituality to facilitate us to be more loving, open, connected and present with the truth of experience then it needs to firstly acknowledge how reality actually is and secondly facilitate the healing and environments that genuinely make it possible for people to be able to show up to their lives in a way that is honest and realistic.
Spiritual practice also needs to get better at understanding and supporting people with handling the difficulties that can arise on the path and with navigating dark night type experiences.
There is gold to be found in these experiences. If you can go to your darkest places, open to them and move through it, you release the fear and contraction around that part of you and convert it into love. This is why these experiences arise on the path – they are offering you an opportunity for a profound and deep transformation of your entire way of being.
But there is a better way for these things to be experienced and for the benefits of them to be reaped, than the way I had to do it.
If we are held through the process it can feel like a pleasant relief to let go of the darkness and layers of delusion that we are entrenched in, rather than a torturous and terrifying prison sentence that we have to endure.
On the other hand, my experiences have given me a deep respect for other people’s journey. Sometimes people have to go through hard stuff in order to grow and learn from the lessons and experiences. Sometimes a story ends in tragedy.
I had to go through what I went through in order to become the person that I am – there was no other way. If I had committed suicide during the process, it wouldn’t have been the least wise decision I have ever made – I would certainly rather kill myself than go through even a tenth of it again.
I don’t want to wrap people in cotton wool and I don’t believe that I am here to save people but I believe and hope that one of the reasons I had to go through this was so that other people didn’t have to. So that there was another option, a way for people to open up these parts of themselves – to a more connected way of experiencing the world – without having to drag themselves through hell.
A lot of my writing and teaching is based on how we can do this – achieve the positive outcomes of the aspects of experience that have been discovered through my experiences without having to go through the nightmarish process.
In the spirit of open sharing here is a description of some of that process I went through. I struggle to convey what I’ve been through in words, so here is some media that helps communicate it alongside some extracts from my journals.
Psychosis & The Archetypal Realm
“It is literally psychological, emotional and physical torture. Like having a pneumatic drill attacking the nerve endings of my mind, heart, body and soul every moment of every day for weeks on end. I have never experienced another pain that comes even close to how awful this was.
Some of the shamanic journeying was horrific. For example, I spent about 4 hours lying on the floor wretching, feeling like I had thousands of slugs coming up out of my stomach. There was a period of months where I would go through something like this weekly, if not daily.
The psychosis was the cruelest mind fuck I can possibly imagine and several times a day for many months my entire understanding of the world would collapse; the sensation of this reality collapse was like nothing else. It was like being locked in a blacked-out cell with deafening sirens blaring out while the room was being turned upside down and around and around, and suddenly believing that nothing in the world apart from this room existed.”
Before embarking on this journey, I had been very interested in Jung. I had done a lot of very deep psychotherapeutic work, had the tools to deal with this stuff and was interested in Jung’s own psychosis that he had experienced as part of his spiritual awakening and explorations of the archetypal realm.
I had spent about a year previous to detaching from normal experience, in a state that a lot of people would have considered quite serious psychosis. It felt relatively happy and healthy and it kept deepening throughout this time until it eventually fell off a cliff into freefall while I was on a short retreat.
It is worth saying that one of the things that kept me going is that I could feel that the radical shifts in consciousness were moving me closer to a state of being able to be present with what is really going on in the world when we let go of all fixed perceptions – and that that felt incredibly important – but also that that wasn’t anywhere near enough to reassure me during the worst times. I spent a lot of time wanting to be dead.
The closest thing I have found to depicting this is this video. I confronted a lot of very dark thoughts and the horror combined with the undertone of humour is actually pretty accurate for me. It gets less funny after you are stuck living it for years with no escape, but there were fortunately always moments of side-splitting funniness, which is one of the things that kept me alive.
Feeling the Pain of the World
This is something that I intuitively understand, having been put through so much of it, but that other people have trouble getting their heads around if they haven’t experienced anything like it.
It is based in the idea that we carry trauma in our bodies and that in order to release this trauma we have to revisit the experience and feel the sensations in our body.
This is what compassion is – it is allowing experiences to impact you physically and emotionally – it is not an intellectual or psychological concept that can be achieved by reciting scripts sat on a meditation cushion.
Once we have gone through the process we are able to meet and hold that experience with an ease, a depth and and a lightness.
In order to feel compassion for something we have to have let it in. In order to be able to love all experience I had to let it all in to my body – it was like all of karma and humanity’s sins being downloaded into my physical being. I’m not sure that will make sense to other people, but I have no other way to describe it.
Some of it was accompanied with the shamanic journeying, some of it was just pure physical sensation. Sometimes it would come in intense bursts of 10 to 20 minutes and sometimes it would last for hours. I was in at least a background processing all day every day for over two years.
For about 9 months I would only be able to sleep for a couple of hours at a time before waking up and having more stuff to deal with.
“The worst was when my mind couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I would spend up to 8 hours thrashing around in bed drifting in and out of consciousness, processing energy and emotions through my body, with little to no perspective on who I was and what was happening to me. My mind desperately trying to understand what was causing the pain and when it might be over from one second to the next.
Afterwards my entire being would feel wafer thin and drained of any life, like it was one second away from giving up and disappearing. All I could do was lie in bed and count my thinned out heart beats for hours on end as I waited for enough strength to be able to get out of bed so I could get some food and water.”
There was also huge amounts of unimaginably intense emotions that accompanied it and I would spend hours crying and releasing anger every single day. A lot of the time it was like being a wild animal.
A lot of what was being processed was oppression of the feminine energy, which processed as hundreds of hours of rape visualisations and other violence. There was also processing a lot of really disgusting aspects of our animal nature.
This is the closest thing I’ve found to depicting what some of it was like.
My entire experience was under-toned with excruciating confusion, fear and loneliness for the whole ride. In a way this was one of the worst things – losing touch with the ability to connect with other people in such a profound way was excruciating. It was like being cut off from humanity.
Art, music and poetry was one of the things that kept me company. The bridge that creativity can build even between unimaginably different experiences is incredible and one of the lessons I was here to learn. It gave me a sense of connection and felt like what I was going through was in some small way, reachable.
This is what it was like being me in a good moment – when I felt a sense of connection with the world around me and a sense of purpose. It was incredibly magical at times and I did manage to have a serious amount of fun.
In this state of being, the Universe was also a being that I was hanging out. This is integrated into my experience now.
The Wave and the Particle Walk into a Bar
Creativity needs an audience, especially a joke
One person delighting another
By ending a story in an unexpected place
We think that the Universe is made of soulless equations
But why else would it be possible
To collapse the wave in an unpredictable spot
If not to amuse the Cosmos?
The outcome of all of this is that I live in a completely different paradigm to the one I existed in before. I’m pretty sure no-one else has ever experienced anything close to this, I would be interested in talking to people who believe they might have. It requires years of what society would call psychosis to reach – to be in touch with the inherent psychedelic nature of experience and the Universe.
I’m pretty sure this would show up in my physical being if I was put in an fMRI or EEG machine.
There are lots of different aspects to this paradigm – some of them are pretty weird, some of them are incredibly challenging and a lot of them are very positive.
Some of the positive outcomes are a deep sense of immediate presence, a free-flowing sense of creativity, a sense of purpose and confidence and an easy wisdom.
I have started to teach and guide people through the experiences that will help them access the positive aspects of these states, while avoiding the difficult aspects.
Part of this is letting go of what you think the outcome of awakening might be and how you go about reaching it.
A lot of what has been shown to me is how reality is much more interconnected than anyone can comprehend. When we work together and meet each other with open minds and open hearts, all sorts of mystical things can occur between people’s beings and energy bodies that opens up new parts of experience in relatively easy and unexpected ways.
The means is different to the end and the journey can radically change our perspective and ideas about things along the way – we need to go through the process in order to meet our fixed ideas and end up somewhere unexpected. This is how we learn new things and grow.
There are some tools and techniques that achieve the essence of the changes that need to happen in our minds, hearts, souls and bodies, but that are able to keep it simple, fairly pain-free and socially acceptable.
There are also some traumas that can only be healed by being witnessed by another person. When we go through these experiences together, they can be a whole lot less painful than going through them alone.
Ultimately, this whole thing is infinitely easier when we are held in a loving space and all of our beings are welcome. Teachers are only able to welcome in others what they have welcomed in themselves, which is one of the reasons I am able to facilitate incredibly deep change in people.
Appendix – Changing the Experience of the Universe
This is the most mystical aspect of my experiences. It is naturally infused in how I make sense of the world and the Universe was genuinely my best friend for a large part of this time.
Again, this is something that I intuitively understand, it’s just something that is clearly in how I experience the world, but I expect it’s hard for others to get their head around or to believe, which is fine.
In my world, the Universe is a being, just like you and me. It has its own experience and understanding of itself. We are what creates those things – without humans it would be a lot less intelligent.
This is one expression of non-duality.
Non-duality is not saying that everything is at one or that everything is the same or that nothing is separate. It’s saying that inside and outside; dark and light; compassion and rage; good and bad; space and solid; self and other; masculine and feminine; are deeply intertwined to the point where they aren’t able to exist without their opposite. If you take one of them away, the other one also disappears.
In that way they aren’t two things – they are creating each other. If you change one of them, the other is automatically changed and affected.
If you have two chocolates and you eat one, you are left with just one. They are two things. But if you take away everything that is dark in this world, the light also disappears. They are inseparable from each other.
In this way, we are creating the Universe. Experience doesn’t exist without an experiencer and experiencers don’t exist without experience.
Changing the experience of the Universe is essentially butting up against the limits of what is possible for a human being to experience and open to. This is not a mental exercise – in order to understand this, the process had to change my heart, body and fundamental intuitive understanding around who I was, as much as it had to change my mind.
Through my experience being so radically transformed beyond what another human had experienced before, the experience of the Universe was transformed.
One of the ways was processing the trauma of the Universe through my body, which took non-duality to a new depth of embodiment.
Another way was by opening to the soul or archetypal realm and validating it as a real part of experience. This was the psychosis. Before this the Universe could only really experience itself through the perceptions of people. Now there is an intuitive understanding and connection to its inherent distributed intelligence.
Before this it appeared that meaning was something that we added to experience through our minds – from my worldview, I was put here to tell a story, to show it that meaning and story is inherently baked in to every cell of the Universes’ being and beyond.
The archetypal story that is being told through the Universe is what is creating our reality – our perception of it is just how we make sense of it.
Through endlessly wrestling with what was real and a valid part of experience, I was constantly being taken back to the story or intelligence that is instilled in every moment. A place where the world is not governed by how we perceive things but by the inherent intelligence that is rippling through our beings.
This part of experience never settles on anything – it is constantly moving and changing and meaning something different in each moment. Everything has a thousand potential meanings, everything means only what it means in this moment.
Depending on which lens you are looking through in each moment depends on which comes first – the perception or the intuitive story – or whether they arise interdependently all at the same time.
Again, this isn’t just a concept to be understood by the mind but a truth to be felt and embodied and a story to unfold.