As some of my readers may know my health has been…questionable for most of my life. I was born dead and out for about fifteen minutes before resuscitation. I spent the first month of my life, save Christmas day, in an incubator. The only reason I’m alive is thanks to the fact I was born in a country with universal healthcare. My parents would not have been able to afford me and all my complications and I wouldn’t have made it past the first week if I had been born in the States. I drowned when I was four, resuscitated. I spent much of adolescence in pain and discomfort in and out of hospitals, I spent a lot of my preteen and teen years as a frequent guest of the Hospital for Sick Children, the best pediatric hospital in the world.
It is not surprising considering these issues, and several other issues, that I don’t exactly identify with my body. I always think of myself as a consciousness driving a meat suit, like a kid in a robot in an anime. It’s not me, I’m the consciousness. The body is broken, it’s decaying and falling apart the moment it’s born, that is not me. My mind, my consciousness that is pure, that is disconnected from my body and its corruption. That’s how I viewed myself for a long time. Something above and beyond my body.
Then more recently I was diagnosed with depression. Now I shouldn’t have to say this, but depression is a physiological problem in the brain. It is not about “feeling sad” and can’t be fixed with happy thinking, any more than anemia is fixed with thoughts about iron. The brain has problems processing and creating specific neurochemicals. When I was diagnosed with depression it really hit me that I am not above and beyond my body, because depression is a problem in the brain, but it affected me, even though I thought of myself as beyond it. My consciousness, at very least, gets translated through the physical brain. As “pure” as my consciousness might be it gets distorted by the interface with my brain.
It was actually hard for me to admit that a problem with my body was affecting my mind, and that my mind wasn’t separate. It seems like nothing major, but to someone who was more in their head than their body it is upsetting to see how it can be distorted and influenced. Then when I started taking anti-depressants I again had to admit how the brain affects me, as my moods and clarity improved again.
I got to “trigger” more of this discomfort to force me to deal with it. I began to experiment a year ago with cannabis. Yes at 33 I’ve probably been high less than the average 18 year old. The first experience knocked me out of the meat suit, it was a very potent edible. I got what some call body heaviness, but it was to the point where I didn’t feel like I was interfacing with my body, and actually had mild spasms as I couldn’t completely control my body. I was still piloting a meatsuit, but all the controls were sluggish or crosswired. I was just my conscious sitting in my head. My ability to focus goes out the window, and that’s again what made me have to deal with this brain interface. It wasn’t just moods, my brain could actually interrupt my ability to think.
When you think of yourself as a non-physical consciousness, it’s actually a troubling thought to see how chemicals can affect you, that your consciousness isn’t as inviolate as you think.
My purpose in writing and sharing this is twofold. Firstly it is allowing me to process some of my humility around this, coming to terms with the fact that however “pure” my consciousness might be beyond the body, as long as I’m in the body the physical brain can and will influence me. In fact we’re learning more and more about how much of our personality is physically rooted in the brain, which then makes me wonder about who “I” am? How much of the personality I identify with is “me” in the sense of my consciousness beyond flesh, and how much is based upon my genes, my neurochemicals, and events that shape the way the brain function. My one lama used to refer to this is our biology and biography, but I feel there is one more piece, that Beyond the flesh consciousness. Secondly I write this because sadly I see a trend in the various magick communities to ignore or look down on mental health issues. Pretending, thinking as I did, that the brain/body couldn’t influence the consciousness. Sadly this plays out with people not seeking professional help for mental health issues, or assume that medications aren’t the route to follow.
My Rinpoche fled Tibet during the Chinese invasion. As a child he fled through the mountains of Tibet, being chased occasionally by Chinese military, losing people on the way, living a horrible story. That was over sixty years ago, but he still has PTSD and can’t watch military movies. That was a reassuring conversation for me, here is a Rinpoche, a great teacher who has spent his life meditating, but he admits there is a wall where he cannot control the damage that was done. If a reincarnate lama in his 70s can still deal with mental health issues, it’s not a failing when you can’t magick it away. As a subculture we don’t imply someone is a failure because they can’t magick away anemia or allergies or whatever, but we treat mental health problems as personal and magickal failures, and that’s bullshit. As competent sorcerers we have to be willing to engage reality as it is, not how we want it to be, and use any resource we can to make our journey better, more productive, and more functional, and for some of us, part of that is realizing we are more of the body and brain than we think, and that’s okay.