A headline – Mental Health Problems Causing More Damage Than Smoking – jumped at me off a newspaper front page yesterday, and I was reminded of a vision I had back in the 1990s, when I saw mental illness sweeping across the land, causing havoc and horrific amounts of distress. I saw that humanity is locked into a turbulent evolution in the mental sphere, and only through understanding of the true nature of life and consciousness can we hope to navigate through it.
In a society that is utterly confused about who we are and why we exist this situation is bound to arise. We have ditched centuries of obedience to the dogmas of religion and many have absorbed the soulless paradigm offered by a purely scientific (ie externally oriented) approach to life – most of us have probably just given up trying to believe in any purpose or reason for our existence, leaving us alone, isolated and afraid. How is this situation supposed to create wellness? What is needed is a deep embrace of the search into who we are, building on the discoveries and revelations that is our inheritance from a few thousand years of spiritual search, not dismissing that past as so many attached to the modern scientific mind seem to like to do.
I do not think the holocaust of mental pain that I imagined has arrived yet, but it seems it may be well on its way. It was widely reported yesterday that nearly half of all illness suffered by people of working age in the UK has a psychological root. 6 million people experience depression or crippling anxiety, three-quarters of them receiving no treatment for it at all. Nearly half of absenteeism from work is due to mental health problems. Mental health problems are more debilitating than most chronic physical health conditions, but only 13% of NHS money is spent addressing them, despite the effectiveness that treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can have.
In 1995 I started to experience dramatic changes in the way I perceived and experienced the world around me. Instead of seeing shape and form I began to notice energy flows; at the same time my thoughts entered into pathways I had not known before. I felt as if my vibration and that of everything around was accelerating – the predominant feeling this produced in me was JOY unlike any I had ever known. I spent much time feeling myself on the edge of an infinite pool of bliss, waiting to absorb and transform me. But every now and again I would fall out of this blessed state into DESPAIR and FEAR, feeling utterly confused, helpless and alone.
I began to see connections between things, deeper reasons behind all actions and events. From appearing as a superficial story of consumption and gratification, life started to unveil all sorts of mysteries to me. The visions told me that after millennia of evolving the human body, the spirit in us was now entering the climax of a (relatively short and rapid in cosmic terms) period of mental evolution. From the invention of writing a few thousand years ago, through the development of philosophy and religion, art and science, humanity has evolved its mental capacity, embraced the intelligence of the universe itself, reaching a point where an epoch making breakthrough in our understanding is imminent.
I was very excited, rushing into my doctor with tales of my discovery of chakras and auric bodies. This earned me a psychosis diagnosis, with a psychiatrist trying to persuade me to take medication because I was ‘too happy.’ I laughed that off, and handled the debilitating low periods with the belief that my mind was evolving – growing and expanding – which inevitably meant going through painful stuff as well as pleasant. I held on to the fact that the mind, like the body and the emotions, is a feature of my existence, but not who I am. I learnt that I am the observer, the central sense of ‘I am’ and learnt to find detachment from the things that happened to this body-mind of mine. I soon saw that friends who earned themselves a ‘bi-polar’ label believed they were doomed to a lifetime of manic periods and depression, but I saw these extremes as the mind expanding and finding its new form. I stayed in trust that the swings would stop and the centre be found.
An AIDS diagnosis, leading to an acceptance within myself that I (and all things) shall pass, was the doorway to this detachment. It enabled me to step back from the intensity of the things that were happening to me and set my sights on achieving a greater understanding of what we are as living beings. I was very fortunate to meet a man who felt that I was actually damaging myself in my hunger for knowledge – I was studying and absorbing everything I came across, filling my mind, thinking this was the way to reach the breakthrough I could see ahead. He suggested I do the opposite – empty the mind, become free of thought and drop the race to understand. This made sense, and through letting go of my fanatical drive to evolve my mental capacity I moved into a deeper place within myself, starting to feel and live from the eternal part of my consciousness, which did not need to think, debate and analyse – the part of me that simply knew and felt its oneness with life itself.
We have created a modern culture that thrives on communication and information. The mind has become king, and the other, crucial, aspects of our human existence – such as our emotions and intuitive abilities, have been pushed into second place. But the mind is an analytical tool, and a creative one. It cannot know things, it can only speculate and believe what it chooses to. What most people have failed to grasp is that the beliefs we choose to hold about ourselves are going to translate into the experiences we get. These experiences then affirm in us our, perhaps very limited and narrow views. To become free we need to start looking at a bigger picture, which will then reveal itself to us. Inside us is a much deeper, more ancient and profound, way of knowing and being than the thinking mind. While we are not in touch with this soul part of ourselves, both as individuals and as a society, we are going to suffer the anxieties, depressions and fears that come from our limited perspective.
Some days my mind would race so fast I thought I would take flight. Sometimes my mind became so empty and quiet I could feel the presence of infinite love and grace filling every moment. I humbled myself, accepting that I did not know who I was or what was really happening through us on this planet. I began to study spiritual texts, to meditate, pray, draw, dream, write poetry, and gradually open myself body mind and heart to a deeper reality. This is what humanity desperately needs to do now, individually and collectively.
The dominant psychological models in our modern day are still limited, because on the whole they do not take account of the spirit within us. A model of body-mind-emotion is not enough. We are also infinite spirit – each an individual soul that is part of a single whole. It is easy in a mind-based culture to dismiss this notion, but we are more likely to experience the truth of it it if we embrace it, then explore it.
The ancients knew that balance comes through four physical elements, all manifest in us as they are in nature. The elements of earth is our body, air our minds, water our emotional nature and fire the creative spirit. Blocked emotional energy creates physical disease (and also leads us to destructive habits). At the root of it all is actually the beliefs we carry about ourselves and about life. These beliefs colour the emotions that we experience. The modern culture has little appreciation of how these elements affect each other, and how we can create mental, emotional and physical health through knowing and interacting with the elements – experiencing ourselves as part of nature, not separate from it. This is the way to wellness and wholeness.
Sometimes life becomes overwhelming, and we need help. We are as prone to mental and emotional crisis as we are to physical. And collectively we are going through a massive spiritual crisis, one that will be solved when the fundamental unity of all life is recognised and honoured. When we realise that we are life itself, and all our problems, trials, and our triumphs are in fact the life force itself experiencing all that can be experienced. By coming into harmony with the natural flow of things we will create well being for ourselves and all around, and begin a new journey as an enlightened humanity on our paradise planet. Old conflicting paradigms of religion and atheism will be scrapped as the purpose of life becomes – exploring the purpose of life! With joy,with passion and humour, without rules set by others – humanity is poised for a shift that changes everything. But until that happens, things are likely to just get more and more crazy.