There’s a tendency to avoid dealing with the subject of mental health in some spiritual traditions and teachings. To poo poo inner work and growth, to try to meditate away ‘negative’ emotions, reactions, thought patterns and conditioning. But spirituality and spiritual awakening is not a panacea, it is many things and in some ways a lot of the “problems” of the mind do in fact disappear. But in some ways post awakening the work and cleanup becomes intensified and it can become even more important to address and give attention to anything that’s still arising. This can be when some of the true work begins, because the strategies that have stopped you from looking beneath the covers of the mind dissolve.
It is the embracing not the running away that allows one to look at where the stored traumas, memories, reactions, conditioning and energetic imprints are having an impact on the current moment, your current experience of life. So in some ways it’s only then that you can truly move through and on from the issues or patterns that may have plagued your life.
We all know someone, or maybe ourselves that have experienced mental health issues, and yet it’s still so hard for society as a whole to acknowledge, embrace and talk about. Why do you think we even need to have a ‘World Mental Health Day’. We’re too quick to try and fix, instead of taking the cues that are being shown. Those cue want to be heard, want to be seen. Not fixed or forgotten about, or covered up, or shoved under the carpet; but instead seen and heard and embraced like a small child looking for love.
There is no manual about how to live life. It’s difficult and there are no singular right or wrong answers that apply to all. But especially when we pay too much attention to what those around us, and society are saying about how we should feel and act and be in life. Often the first thing to go when we try and fit into something that we feel we should be fitting into, is our sense of internal well-being and peace.
The term mental health is a catchall for many experiences and often comes measured against a theoretical blueprint about what it is to be ‘normal’. This is massively problematic, particularly as from everything I can gather, there is no normal. And beyond that… often these things that we fear are ‘abnormal’ about ourselves are actually experiences that our friend, our neighbour, our family member, the stranger on the bus are also feeling and experiencing too.
The mental suffering comes in when we falsely accept that our experience is wrong – that we ‘shouldn’t’ be experiencing x, y & z. I’ve often said to people that I encounter along the road of life who tell me that what they are experiencing is wrong or broken, that what if they were an alien who had just arrived on Earth and were told x, y & z is completely correct to feel, what then? What would their relationship to x, y & z be? Would they think it wrong? No.
So it’s often our relationship to how we perceive what we’re experiencing that causes it to be wrong or right, to suffer it or not. What if we were taught happy is bad, sad is good? It’s our labelling of experiences that determines their value and therefore where we derive our sense of value in life. What if we were to drop these labels and sit in the pocket with our experiences. To not run away from the ‘bad’ and towards the ‘good. But to feel all.
I feel this is true mental health. To attend to all that’s arising with awareness and compassion, without labels and judgements of right or wrong.
Mental health assumes there is a good health and a bad health. It measures this good and bad against the idea (or ideal) of normal. But show me normal, find me who it looks like? We have to face facts, there is no one-size fits all. There is no ‘normal’, just life playing out as it does with all its colour and variety, shapes and sizes, all its seeming paradoxes and diversities.
There’s a constant
exploration of life
that is immediate.
To listen to your body,
your physical response to life,
your intuitive knowingness.
The pull towards yes or no.
Not on an intellectual level,
but on a physical level
of what’s right or wrong
for you in that moment.
And we are conditioned to override this all the time.
There’s a bravery
and a risk
to listening to that intuition.
response and reaction
Often it can go against
everything that you think you know.
But it’s screaming for your attention.
Will the head win?
Or will the heart?
Will you let the conditioning and the head run the show?
Or will the naturalness of life win out?
This can be a big battle for most.
The intuition and the heart
eventually will win the war,
but it can take time.
“None of the contents of mind is intrinsically you, it’s passing through like clouds in the sky.
Recognize that you are the substrate, the ‘sky’ if you like.” – Imogen
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do XY&Z in order to realise the Self…. as if it’s like a cake that you put all the exact ingredients in the bowl in the right order and put it in the oven and ping, you have yourself a perfect cake.
Except it doesn’t work like that, that’s the mind’s imaginings of what it is. What I’m talking about is prior to the mind, and therefore can’t be grasped by the mind. Anything the mind thinks it knows or understands about this is just the mind imagining what it thinks. It’s not an adding to, it’s not a changing of, its a realisation of that which you cannot NOT be, that which you already are, that which you always were, that which you always will be whether you realise it or not. It’s like waking up from a dream; before… you were in the dream and you didn’t realise that you were dreaming, but you were. Then you wake up and realise it was a dream. It doesn’t change the dream, the dream is still there, playing out at it was, but you realise you are dreaming now.
Self realisation, or enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it is not a ‘thing’ that you get… it’s your very nature, and that is recognised…. which changes everything, and yet it changes nothing. It’s not something that I can describe to you and you will ‘get’. I’m just pointing, in my own imperfect way, to something in your own experience that’s maybe being overlooked, but like I said… if you’re reading this and trying to ‘get it’ with the mind then you won’t able to.
It will seem like a riddle.
I was talking to a dear friend the other day about how to be present for others. Everyone’s had the experience of sitting with someone but not really being present to what they are saying. You are physically there but there’s a sort of ‘half listening’ that’s going on. There’s also the commentary or stream of thoughts going on in your mind.
What’s at the heart of it is to deal with your own stuff. Through the acceptance of what is arising in you there is space created that allows you to be completely present to them. It’s like when your cup is full, there is no space; but if your cup is empty there is space for them. Your emptiness comes from your ability to abide in the present moment and allow what is arising in you to arise. To not be met with any resistance, or to indulging and encouraging whatever is arising.
My relationship to speech and words has completely changed. I used to believe that what I said was the end result of something rolling around in my head, carefully considered and judge and then spat out into the world. There was a feeling that words were informed my memories and impressions, that there was history and knowledge in the words too.
Now when I speak and I have no idea where it comes from. I have no opinions that I’ve formed that come out in response to someone speaking. I actually listen when someone’s speaking, with open heart and mind, it’s not just an opportunity to figure out what to say next!