Where is there? I’m honestly not sure of where “there” is myself, but I am told that when I get “there” I will find it. Quite recently I found myself back in a private search for there and I wasn’t quite sure where to start, so I turned to my regular meditation practice. I stepped outside and allowed the calming sounds of nature to permeate my mind, drowning out what seemed to be the inorganic ruminations of my anxiety. If you’ve dealt with anxiety before I’m sure you know of the feeling all too well- the incessant voice of your own self that brings up everything there is in the world to worry about. One thing I can say about anxiety is that is if anything it is consistent. Whether I am attempting to do something important or if I am simply being it shows up with the same old conversation. So I allowed it to be because at the time of my questioning, I had found another way to relate to it. So by sitting still, paying attention to my breath, feeling my sit-bones and slowly bringing my awareness to different parts of my body, I shifted my attention away from the voices in my own head and I allowed myself to be absorbed by nature, to the point where I couldn’t tell if I was breathing or if nature was breathing me. It was at this point that I began a search which led me down the rabbit hole of what I typically call my “studying routine.” Exploring the latest in talks and articles in psychoanalysis to philosophy, to zen, then to individual teachers in those traditions and a list of others all in about thirty minutes. I like to call it my intellectual channel surfing. Quite recently I was told it my “down the rabbit hole” moment. After coming back to the present I found myself on the page of an author that I had admired for some time, Jay Michaelson. Jay Michaelson’s work bridges the gap of non-duality for me; his relatable explanations of non-dual Judaism, philosophical discussions on the nature of the self and sexuality, along with his interpretation of the inner landscapes of the mind experienced during meditation made me purchase his book entitled, God is Everything, some time ago. Back in 2011, I decided after stumbling across his work and others in the psychological, spiritual and philosophical communities that I wanted to go back to school and have all of those authors become my instructors. So I started a podcast and was fortunate enough to borrow thirty minutes to an hour of folks like Jay’s time and share those experiences with the world. So after exploring Jay’s page I found myself googling my name next to Jay’s in sort of child like manner, similar to the way in middle school you stand shoulder to shoulder with the guy in gym class to see if you’re just as tall as he is or if in fact you had more work to do. I sometimes do that sort of comparison work to personally see what I should change, how I should present my work, and what the latest trends are in exporting this kind of thought to the public. It turns out Jay actually lifted me and my confidence a bit higher; the first link that popped up was an interview from my old podcast that Jay featured on his website. Admittedly as soon as I saw it I felt taken back a bit, almost to the point of tears; Was I “there?” Is this the answer to my question? Why did I have to do this search and why do I feel weirdly embarrassed that I went through all of this?
Adam Phillips the psychoanalyst and essayist calls this phenomenon “attention seeking.” For Phillips, this idea of attention seeking is based on the conversations we have with ourselves about what it is we are seeking and what it is that we need attending to. For me, I learned early on attention seeking capacity was based on my childhood desire for coaching and development. My mother raised four boys by herself with very little income and the occasional commercial breaks of a meandering stepfather. Growing up without a stable father-figure, took a tole on my young psyche and the indentation on my development followed me in many ways into adulthood. You too may know what it is like: second guessing yourself, that leery feeling of being found out to be a fraud, not sure if you are on the right track even if all the signs point that you are-you know the normal stuff folks with anxiety experience. For me, I would say it is sort of like a program running in the background of your phone. You don’t realize it’s running in the background until your phone’s battery fails to maintain a full charge. This part of my self isn’t anymore my shadow than any other parts of myself that I cannot see. Because for me, the shadow isn’t a bad thing, it is simply the parts of myself that I cannot see but show up in the world to everyone else. Although it does not often feel great, I am grateful when I notice their manifestation because I can now pay proper attention to that part of myself. So when I venture down the rabbit hole, I know that there is an answer being desired to a question posed long ago by some forgotten part of myself. I have given myself the space to not judge it but to go with it, and I have become all the more better by holding this space for myself.