I received such a beautiful message from Jeannet, a Social Worker today, that I just had to get her permission to share her story with you. Thank you so much Jeannet, for adding your voice to the cause…
From my early teens I longed for ‘something more’ than was offered to me by the everyday perspective I grew up with, which told me that what I could see and touch, was what existed and nothing more.
Much later in life, as I was training to be a social worker, I found social work was largely based on that way of seeing reality – drawing on medical, psychological and social ways of understanding our world. But I had come across other, complementary perspectives and talked with people who had had experiences of what some have called ‘non-ordinary states of consciousness’. Some had sought medical help for this (or had had it imposed on them) and others had kept quiet. For some the outcomes had been good, and others still struggled to live with the challenges such experiences can present.
I had been reading about a technique of entering non-ordinary states (Holotropic Breathwork, developed by Stan Grof) and went to a couple of workshops which had a profound impact on me. Even in the first session I experienced inner ‘visions’ and energy flows through my body. I was told this might be related to Kundalini, which is written about in some meditation practices. I had a huge sense of my heart opening, and I felt that here, finally, was a way of gaining a sense of ‘something more’.
To cut a long story short, I trained as a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator and experimented with other techniques for inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness, such as meditation and work with entheogens. My experiences were at times ecstatic and at other times absolutely terrifying. Most of this work I did during a sabbatical year away from my job. There were times I felt so shattered I thought I would never work again. It was frightening to think there were dimensions of reality I could not see while in my ‘ordinary’ state of awareness. Were parts of these dimensions dangerous? I didn’t know. Thankfully the last major experience I had was of becoming dissolved in, and part of, a field of Consciousness, Light, Wisdom, Love and deep Compassion.
Although I still went through months of struggle with the question of whether what I had ‘seen’, in particular what had frightened me, was ‘real’ or not (I concluded I can’t know, but it was real to me!), this experience of merging with that sea of Consciousness has changed my life, my sense of who I am and how I see the world. What I ‘learnt’ (and this is just my experience and conclusion, of course!) was that this every day, what-we-can-see-and-touch level of reality is one level of expression of a deeper reality in which we and everything that exists are one – part of the evolution of that Consciousness within Itself, somehow. It seems that we as human beings can move between ‘sensing’ these and other levels of ‘reality’, a bit like switching channels on a TV.
Fast forward to today … I did go back to work at the end of my year out, and that was fine (though I went off for a couple of month with stress after a while of working in an acute mental health team – maybe not the best job to have gone into, so shortly after!). As I am still working as a social worker, I don’t deliberately open myself up to that level of exploration now, as I fear for me it would be too difficult alongside my work in the every-day world.
I do at times go through spontaneous periods of energy coursing through my body and shifts in my sense of reality. It seems this can be triggered by an emotional shock, such as after a close colleague committed suicide. These periods last for up to a couple of months, with a build-up in intensity and then a gradual tapering off. They happen mostly at night, waking me in the early hours. Thankfully I can always pull myself out of them when I have to (e.g. when getting up to go to work!) or when they do happen during the day. Some of the experiences are ecstatic and others frightening. To me they have an intense and ‘more real than normal’ quality while I am in them. They can be both energizing and exhausting. I have found accounts of mystical experiences, Jung’s psychology and the notion of the Shadow very helpful in reassuring myself that what I’m going through is a process I can trust, which is ultimately integrating and healing – and that I am not alone in going through it (even though I know what comes up for people can be very different!).
I have tended to be cautious about who I share this information with, to not frighten people or become labelled in some way, but this campaign feels important and I cannot stand by without supporting it. I am deeply grateful for what I have experienced and what that has given me, and I feel a responsibility to give something back.
I think many of us have experiences which may be incomprehensible at the time but which contain the possibility of deep transformational learning and expansion of the limited ways we have been taught to experience ourselves and the world. For some these breakthroughs can be profoundly painful and destabilizing and we may need a bit of support and understanding to get through them, but it is essential we don’t block the process of inner healing and growth – for us as individuals, and for all of us collectively.
I fully support this campaign and hope together we can make a difference to how we understand and respond to such experiences and to how we see ourselves and our potential as human beings.