May 18, 2018

Splitting the Ego Atom

Some time ago I experienced an ecstatic vision, rising out of sleep, in which I physically, emotionally, and spiritually experienced what we would call Paradox. (See Postcard from the Lip of the Void.) These sensations all occurred together, at once. A baby being born and the same baby as an old man dying. A village shuttering its windows in fear against arriving tanks, and the same villagers driving the invading tanks. A water drop forming in the vapors of clouds and at the same time dropping into and being absorbed by the ocean. All of it happened at once, outside of time, outside of space. And my body and mind rebelled. In fact, I could only experience fragments at a time, as my mind attempted to hold them together and couldn’t, as my body attempted to sense them together, and couldn’t.

I once read an article on children’s language development by Allan Schore, a neuropsychologist who studies the neuropsychology and attachment development of children. He described how mothers/caregivers, with all good intentions, narrow a baby’s experience by teaching language. Imagine a baby standing up in her crib following a nap on a spring afternoon, taking in a number of sense impressions: skin sensation of a spring breeze, sunlight warming her skin and falling on the room in a variety of light patterns, sounds of birds and insects outside the window, flutter of the curtain in the breeze, etc. The baby is having a multimodal, multisensory symphony of experience. These are not separate experiences that the baby notices in sequence (as I’ve had to write about them), but a woven tapestry experienced as a whole. Mother then enters the room, exclaims, “Oh look at the nice sunshine!” Baby’s multidimensional experience suddenly gets split into a focus on the sunshine. Now there is only “sun” and it’s multimodal beingness is reduced to the word “nice.”

The mother didn’t do wrong. She did what is needed. She is teaching language to her little one. She is teaching her to take a step beyond the Garden of Eden, to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. She is helping her little one to form an ego, an incredibly important tool for survival that will help her interact effectively in a three-dimensional world. The unavoidable cost is to lose the richness of the original experience through the creation of little bubbles or atoms called “sun” and “tree” and “house” which will eventually be drawn in a way that can be seen and understood immediately by others: a circle with lines emanating from it, a rectangle for a trunk with a circle on top for leaves, a square with a triangle inverted for the roof, the letters “h-o-u-s-e,” and so forth. We celebrate these accomplishments of children, without realizing, perhaps, the cost to the child’s creative spirit, or how we can minimize the cost.

Even so, I’ve come to the conclusion that our conscious, social minds need our splits and our bubbles of separateness (inside and outside), that they are a built-in way for us to get along in a world that isn’t often attuned to our holistic needs. For example, I was able to split off my physical needs from my emotional needs as a child. As a result, I was able to enjoy and find pleasure in the food my mother cooked for me, without having to cope with overwhelming feelings about ways she hurt me. I was able to split off painful memories that, had I held them in memory, would have threatened my ability to cope with the dangers surrounding me. And I was able to experience a spiritual split that allowed me to experience the Blessed Mother (I was raised Catholic) as my spiritual, comforting, protecting mother.

In adulthood, at least since age 30 or so when I rediscovered a spiritual path, I have been focused on reuniting those parts of myself that have been split off, with reconnecting all of the separated parts of myself. Right brain to left brain, inner/emotional brain to outer/thinking brain, heart to gut to head, etc. The most important split, and one that remains most difficult for me to heal, is the split that came as a result of childhood abuse: body split from everything else. This split has resulted in chronic physical pain, stiffness, neuropathy, and autoimmune disease. At 68 my body is so much healthier than in my 40s and 50s. I haven’t had any symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in over a decade. But I feel the loss of my body, the loss of enjoyment of my body. And I know my body feels the loss of my spirit and energy.

Here’s the way I’ve been conceptualizing the reconnection of my split parts. Like everyone, I formed an ego, that requirement of living in a social and material environment. I perceive that ego as a network of small “cells” or “atoms” or “bubbles,” each having a rigid membrane holding it together, and there is a lot of power locked within each atom. Also like everyone who attempts to live an examined life, I have attempted to become aware of, and to reconnect, all of this power-being-held-within-rigid-atoms. All of this power is one thing – the power in atom A is the same power as that in atom B. When and if the rigid exterior membranes of these atoms melt, all of that power will unify, it will take up space, it will have perceptible Presence. There will be a Big Bang of Merry when my Ego Atoms finally collide and merge together into a unified field. I confess that I am not sure what integration will look like. I am working toward something I can’t imagine.  Will it be like my vision of Paradox? Like the baby holistically experiencing in the crib? Or will the Big Bang of Merry be something more like release from this 3-D world, more like death?

It’s because of that ecstatic vision of Paradox that my heart, and even my head, KNOW that there is no separation, in me or anywhere, that All is already integrated. Knowing gives me the courage and patience to continue. Knowing gives me the language to render it in words of separation. But my body is not yet convinced. My body still feels the pain of separation.

So. I breathe deeply and sigh out as I wait and watch and move for the tendrils of connection to form. I breathe deeply and sigh out as I stand and move and and dance and watch for freedom.