Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Journeys Inside My Head

I guess I’ve always been a dreamer; wondering what if and why not? It’s been a lifelong journey outside the fringes of consciousness, usually spurred on by vapid aspirations and free-flowing thoughts inside my head.

Transcendental meditation and chemical enhancements never appealed to me. I’ve always abhorred drugs and the idea of putting strange substances into my body was an absolute no-go. So, grass, gummies, magic mushrooms, chemical cocktails and the like all stopped before getting close to my lips. Alcohol, for instance, has been absent from my body for more than half a century.

While stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco, I decided one brilliant Friday night to get a little drunk along with my army buddies. After some Malt Liquor, a little wine, beer and who knows what else, I was totally wasted and gone from this world. Two days of recuperation and my body rejected any future ingestion of alcohol. Future partying went as far a couple of light beers and that was that. I haven’t touched hard liquor for the last fifty-five years and counting.

So where does that leave me if I want to venture forth into the world of esoteric thoughts, ideas, concepts, assumptions, reflections, and other soulful ventures into the unknown or cloudy past? Mindful exploring of the great unknown seems to be the answer. Yoga and meditation come first to mind.

Some claim that our mind is the ultimate filter. The newest cliché in a long list of ‘feel good’ labels is mindfulness. It comes after a long list of mind-altering techniques, with or without chemical enhancement, to see more clearly the world around us and thought patterns inside our head. One approach is to go someplace to meditate and not medicate. It can be a mountaintop surrounding the Coachella Valley, hanging off a cliff in Machu Picchu, or just reading about it in a book.

Starting in high school, I was curious about how to see the world in a different perspective. I wanted to journey inside my head sans chemical enhancements. After I stumbled upon Carlos Castaneda I was hooked. Granted, his approach to cerebral Valhalla was with magic mushrooms but the journey mesmerized me nevertheless.

Later on, despite my own divorce from organized religion after the eighth grade, I was mesmerized by a hip, chain-smoking priest named Malcom Boyd. Malcom’s approach to life wasn’t your semi-hippie ‘transcendental meditation’ so popular at the time. Rather, it was his attention to detail. Malcom spoke openly and honestly about real feelings, real emotions and real consequences in my own world. Following in Malcom’s footsteps, another group of truth seekers took up the lead that Napoleon Hill had created years earlier.

Napoleon Hill, Robert Pursig, Zig Zigler, and Brian Tracy all began preaching their own version of the gospel of success and self-enlightenment; the original ‘American Dream.’  Perhaps taking their cues from the original bible of self-determination, the ‘McGuffey’s Reader, first published in 1843, they adhered to the principles that ‘the road to wealth, to honor, to usefulness, and happiness, is open to all, and all who will, may enter upon it with the almost certain prospect of success.’ I’m sure if they were selling audio tapes of that book, they’d have made a million dollars by now.

Down through the decades, we’ve been introduced to a myriad of new-age dynamics that are guaranteed to change our lives. A recent trip to the library introduced me to this years ‘best seller’ and finally it seemed to make some sense. Without audiotape box sets, podcasts, U-Tube lecture series or in-person seminars, there seemed to be a rather simple approach to getting inside one’s head.

A quote from a book I recently read said it best: ‘Until we look directly at our minds we don’t really know ‘what our lives are about. Everything we experience in life goes through just one filter – our minds – and we spend very little time bothering to see just how it works.’

I would suggest that once people get a taste of it - it’s so completely fascinating, because really our life is a clear manifestation of what our minds are telling us.’ Good, bad, right or wrong, it’s all there for our perception, acceptance, denial, rejection or embracing.

Coupled up with these mind relaxing techniques are steps to facing our anxieties and learning to live with them. Almost all of the books refer to nature as an all-encompassing, all around us, every day, every time, kind of therapy.

Whether we venture to the top of a mountain, seek a quiet secluded spot among the oranges, or just rock in a chair listening to the birds, we ultimately end up in the same place; inside our head. It’s there, amid the distractions, outside noises, and nagging thoughts that our mind can slowly come clean to the honesty of our lives, our world, and what direction our heart is telling us to go.

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