| April 6, 2017 |
I spent a good chunk of time in January laying in a dark room with ski goggles covered with cardboard on my face, excessive tearing from my eyes, and pondering the complex thoughts expressed by Alan Watts. I listened to almost 15 hours of Alan Watts’ Out of Your Mind while recovering from PRK laser eye surgery and *woah* was it awakening. The lectures were recorded in the late 1960’s in Alan Watt’s home, and the voice of the ‘self-proclaimed spiritual entertainer’ was my sole source of entertainment as I literally sat in darkness for three days straight. After that time, I slowly re-integrated back into the world, without the need to stick contacts into my eyes in the morning, and no more glasses in the evening. FREEDOM!!!!
After my surgery on January 20, I went through one full tissue box in one night as my eyes were uncontrollably tearing. They were literally running down my face, and every time I blinked I felt like there were teeny tiny grains of sandpaper in my eyes. When my eyes were closed, it felt like I had a bandaid over my eyes, yet when I opened them, even the smallest light was like daggers through my pupils. Even the tiny green light on my Mac’s charger was like a laser beam. I could barely stand it.
So what’d I do to stay sane? Get out of my mind with Alan Watts.
The whole PRK surgery was a whole lot more intense than I figured it’d be. I spent three weeks leading up to the surgery without peripheral vision, being four eyed and feeling the discomfort of all day pressure behind the ears, frames sliding down my nose, and the foggy loss of vision when transitioning form outside in the cold to the warmth of indoors. Did I mention that I actually saw cracks of ICE forming on my frames during the first few days of the WFR course? I couldn’t figure out how the heck to shield my face in the single-digit-sometimes-below-zero weather in Raquette Lake, while preventing the condensation from my exhaled air to fog my glasses, and quickly turn to ice. I sacrificed nose-covering, and used my Buff to instead shield my head and prevent heat loss from my scalp. It was a battle of all battles… but still unparalleled to the dark world I lived in after the PRK procedure.
I wasn’t a candidate for traditional Lasik surgery because my corneas are too thin. When I realized I couldn’t exactly do anything to change this (no buffin’ up the corneas, unfortunately), and it’s just the way I was made (in addition to my terrible vision… thanks, Mom :P), I opted for the other recommended procedure: PRK. I still have no idea what it stands for. It’s probably a long name.
PRK has actually been around for longer than lasik, and individuals who are at risk for head injury (like military, MMA fighters) are ONLY candidates for PRK. Why? Basically… Lasik surgery takes this magical laser, creates a flap in the eye’s cornea, and folds it back so ANOTHER laser can reshape the eye to correct vision. The flap is then placed back over the eye, and it heals on its own. Head injury peeps can’t have this done because there’s risk of the flap moving in the future. And that just doesn’t sound fun.
So what’s PRK then? Well, instead of using the first magical laser, the eye is scraped at for what seems like 1 hour, to shed a layer of cells from the eye so the second magical laser can reshape the cornea and give you better vision! The layer of cells isn’t gone forever, though. They grow back while there’s a protective contact over the eye, and THUS the healing process is much longer.
What does it feel like when it’s healing? Like you can’t really keep your eyes open OR closed. Like there’s little tiny pieces of sandpaper in your eye that you REALLY want to get out, BUT YOU CANNOT TOUCH YOUR EYE. This is the slowest form of torture. “Dabbing” the eye with a tissue has never been so dissatisfying. Putting drops in your eyes 3x a day was the only source of some relief, if you could even open your eye enough to get the drop in your eye, and didn’t mind the aftertaste of the first ones. Whatever you do, don’t look into the light. Your family may be useful in creating goggles to block the light out, guide you around your house as you blindly navigate your way around. Maybe you’ll even have blankets duct taped to the windows so you REALLY feel like you’re living in a prison cell.
After about three days, I was kind-of able to look at my phone screen (with brightness all the way down, and font the size your 90-year-old grandmother would probably even say was too large), and I actually sat with my family at the dinner table. I was still stylin’ with my sunglasses indoors. And the damn protective contact was still in my eyes (and remained for a total of 6 days, rather than the typical 3).
And still, the only social interaction I truly had was Alan Watts.
I endured this insane healing process by entering a somewhat constant meditative state. Before even getting the eye surgery, I thought about all the possible discomforts I was going to have a desensitized myself to them. When I first pictured that sand-in-the-eye feeling, I had tingly toes and fingers. I couldn’t imagine feeling it. But, by the time the surgery came around, I had already visualized it so much that it wasn’t as disruptive to my psyche as it could have been.
So, I used these antisocial days to form more philosophical thoughts and listen to my favorite ‘spiritual entertainer,’ ALAN WATTS. Here’s what I learned…
Out Of Your Mind, Alan Watts
Children in the US often ask their parents, “How was I made?” Yet… in Hindu and Chinese cultures, the children may instead ask, “How did I grow?” They don’t want to know how they were made. According to Alan Watts, being ‘made’ is a process from the outside >> in, as a sculptor takes a block of ceramic and chisels away to MAKE a sculpture. Yet… this is not how we come into being. We GROW for the inside >> out. We EXPAND. A living cell in the womb “progressively complicates itself.” We are progressively expanding, and we are vast.
In fact, “being is not something of which we become, but of which we PROCEED.”
That statement has changed so much for me.
Read that one more time, with a little extra time to contemplate it:
“Being is not something of which we become, but of which we proceed.”
Did that make you feel uncomfortable? I had chills when I first heard Alan Watts say it. We have proceeded from the Big Bang, from the expansion of the universe, from the birth of ‘our’ planet. We are not separate from it. We have proceeded from the womb, are growing, and will eventually proceed to death. This is the natural procession, and it is effortless in nature.
We have a “hostility to the external world” because we selfishly believe we exist ONLY inside our skin. We are all the “primordial force of the universe,” yet we define ourselves as being entirely separate. But, there are no separate things. How do you even define a ‘thing’? When Alan Watts asked a group of high schoolers, people used a myriad of synonyms to describe a ‘thing.’ A thing is an object. A thing is inanimate. But, there was one student who said a ‘thing’ is a ‘noun,’ which therefore proclaims a ‘thing’ to be mere figures of speech, NOT in the physical world. If this is true, then there are no ‘things.’ It’s more complex than that.
“The physical world is wiggly.”
Everything is wiggly. Everything around us is alive. It’s moving. When we look at the ocean, it’s apparent. We can see the waves forming and crashing. Yet, we can’t see it with the mountains, but they are no different than the ocean. Maybe that’s why the ocean calls so many people, because we can see and feel the transformation. Though we can’t see it in the mountains, it’s there. The vibration and charge they hold is also shifting like the ocean, and they hold all the same energy of transformation.
We ALL have this wiggle inside of us. We are not THINGS. “You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.” We are afraid because we believe we only exist within our skin, and therefore we are afraid of dying. We see ourselves as finite. But… We are NOT a separate event in the time/space model. We are a continuum.
As Buddha says, We suffer because we desire. Eventually, we desire not to desire. Yet, finding bodhisattha and ‘enlightenment’ is only possible by NOT attaching. We choose to detach, “go straight ahead” through life. We walk on and go with the flow. We have a mind that “isn’t sticky.” But what exactly is this elemental detachment? It’s going with change. It’s not resisting change. With everything being wiggly, we cannot control change, and therefore we must let go of our attempts to control, control, control.
When someone is blocked and ‘confused’ or ‘stuck,’ they’re ATTACHED. We cling to the world, but the world is unpredictable, and we cannot grasp onto it so tightly. But this proposes a problem. When we desire not to desire, this is excessive. All you need to do is give up desiring as much as you can. “Don’t want to go beyond the point of which you’re capable.” So, Buddhism is the ‘middle way.’ You don’t have to give up more desire than you can. Just let go of the desire to be successful. Let go of the PRESSURE.
As much as you can.
But if we aren’t things, and we aren’t meant to attach to the external world, then how do we even begin to understand our place in this world?
Can we even define ourselves?
“Feeling a feeling is feeling… Thinking a thought is thinking.” It’s that simple, but we over-complicate it. We start thinking about the idea that there’s an ‘I’ doing the thinking. I think, therefore I am. But is it true that just because we think, we are a being? We are programmed to believe this, to think this way. We don’t know how to break our programming. We try to create images of what our life should be, based on others’ thoughts, and our beliefs. We connect so deeply with our conscious thoughts, that we believe this is US. We are our thoughts. And we cling to them.
Yet, these thoughts and these belief systems we experience in our consciousness are a part of our “vast, describable self, which has not beginning, no end; it neither continues or discontinues.” All we can really say is what we are NOT. We can’t define ourselves. We can picture all kinds of images of our self, but these images are not us, because our ego and consciousness has created them. If we can see them and think them, then they are not us. We can look in a mirror and see our face, but is this ourself?
“The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.”
Our ego is awareness, but we are more than this.
We are constantly looking to others to understand who we are. “We are constantly in every social interchange, in the most common remarks, telling other people who they are.” When we really tune in to feel ourselves, we may actually realize that our knowledge of self is in relation to others. We compare ourselves to others in a way we simply cannot avoid, because we recognize the duality of self/others. We come into fruition simultaneously. We are “as inseparable as back and front.”
Then, I suppose, everything is relative. We are relat
iveed to all around us. We are interrelated. We cannot define what we are, we can only see what we are not, and we are not separate from all outside of us, because we have come into fruition together.
Even time is relative. Just because something lasts for less time doesn’t make it less significant. In the same way, we cannot have solid without empty and therefore the coexist and are interrelated. A pupil and teacher come into fruition TOGETHER, because one cannot exist without the other. They’re not separate because they depend on each other. One is not born out of the other because they must exist simultaneously. “If there is any such thing as intelligence, and love, and beauty, you found it in other people… In other words, we are not separate.” We support each other. If you lean two sticks on each other, then take one away, they both fall, because they interdepend on each other. WE interdepend on each other.
We are vast consciousness. We should begin to see the world as ourselves. There is a “tremendous interconnectedness of everything,” and we can liberate ourselves by understanding that “everything goes together.”
We are vast. We are interrelated. And we are here for a blip of time on this time/space continuum, so might as well make it fucking awesome.
Disclaimer: Anything in italics and quotations is from the voice of Alan Watts. If you haven’t already listened to any of his teachings (or read his books), I invite you to PLEASE entertain his thoughts. Look him up on YouTube, download Out of Your Mind on Audible, and be prepared to be MIND BLOWN. He’s absolutely one of my favorite thought leaders, and I couldn’t express enough how grateful I am to have found this particular recording on Audible. Though it is 15 hours long, I’ve probably listened to it for AT LEAST double that time. It’s built on a lot of ideas I’ve previously entertained, so I didn’t have a grand ‘awakening’ here, and I’m no spiritual guru. I just keep going back and listening more because I feel my mind expanding immensely with each word. I hope you were open-minded to all these insane thoughts! I had to get them out of my brain for you… 🙂
Also… PRK is photorefractive keratectomy. Say THAT 5x fast. Or just one time slow, if you can.