After the Heart Attack, Who?
About a third or more of people who have bypass surgery, I've heard, struggle with depression. About 5 weeks after having that heart bypass operation, it hit me. Yup, I've become a proud member of that lucky third!
Now, I am something of an expert on depression, having been clinically depressed for about 3 years in college, and having come out of it, I like to think, wiser. Depression was easily one of my greatest teachers: I discovered then that I wasn't who I thought I was, and from it came the life long challenge to live in deeper integrity.
Hardly!! But I could sense that the question haunting me was, do I want to get back into my old life now? I think part of an answer hit me last night; so this epiphany is a day old: I've been thinking about my life all wrong!
When you're thinking mostly about the sensations in your chest or legs, you get preoccupied with you: your health, the sensations in your chest, your worklife. And I've not wanted to climb back into to that life of promoting my recent book or our Soul Jazz workshops.
But, I suddenly realized, this is not what my life-work is about! It's not about me at all, but about something far grander.
What I have been standing for, I just realized, why the Soul Jazz programs really exist (and yes, Virginia, long before a heart attack or bypass sutures) is telling the deep truth.
We all grow up learning social rules, playing the games, creating personas. We cook up worlds and lives for ourselves, mostly from the needs and guidance of our parents and society, and then we jump headling into them like Harold did with his Purple Crayon.
But most of us are not only our personas, our concocted choices. Some of us are far different than the characters or lives we create. My life has been, I suddenly remembered, dedicated to learning who I really am, what I really feel, where I honestly struggle and discover, and helping others do the same. My work has been helping folks learn how to be free — not in some superficial political sense but in the deep psychological, metaphysical or intimate sense that is spiritual growth.
It has been my life-long task to grow, and to help others grow, through the illusions about who we are that leads so many of us to depressions, and beyond being out of alignment. And to help people be honest about our subconscious biases–towards ethnic groups or races or sexual preferences.
I have struggled to name, and to help others name, real truth: about fears of being abandoned, of failing, of being successful, of being ugly or unpopular or not rich enough or… And the Soul Jazz programs help people name where we are actually afraid or confident or anxious or lost, and figure out what to do about it.
And we help folks share their truths with others who wish to do the same. To witness men and women self reflect and drop beneath their lies and self-talk with one another has been, without a question, to listen into spiritual contact of the highest order. To speak honestly, to discover the really real with others who are themselves discovering the real–this is true intimacy. It is love. And it is a spiritual moment of the highest order!
Reaching for deeper truth, alone or aloud with others, helps us live under the weight of fewer and fewer of our own lies. As it says towards the end of Enlightenment Ain't… we come to stand bent under the burdens of fewer and fewer of our own lies. With our planted ever more deeply into the soil of what is so, we become ever more vertical in what we actually are.
Honesty sounds terrifically ordinary. Such a common virtue! It even makes it to the 10 Mosaic Commandments (not bearing false witness). Yet becoming deeply honest with oneself, learning what we actually feel and think and wish and fear — this is neither common nor easy after all! In fact, I think it is the one challenge that most of us duck. Yet, when taken on as a life task, it's the one commandment that can actually make us free.
What the path of ever deeper honesty offers is not unmingled happiness and it is not the conventional. Nor is it camaraderie or ease, though these may come. "What you get in the end is to be increasingly alive, the mystery coursing up your spine. You get to be more awake, more deeply honest, freer, and to stand up straighter and straighter in it." (p. 203)
So this is my epiphany: It has not been for me that I was travelling around the country. It was not to promote books or even workshops. What I am "selling," what I stand for in my life, is the unending and wonderful challenge of becoming ever more real.
It is not freedom from oppression or the freedom to vote I stand for, though these are not unconnected. It is the freedom that comes with reaching ever deeper into what is so, with living under the burden of fewer and fewer of our own lies.
It is not me that I have been standing for. It is the truth. And it will set us free.