“So, you’re 40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean; flying at half the speed of sound in a tin can; heading to the most remote place in the world; to find yourself?”
My companion on the flight from Seattle to Hawaii asked me this question near the beginning of our five hour conversation. If plane rides to the Aloha State always come with a spirit guide, I lucked out with mine. Why do strangers say the things they do? What do they know about us?
“If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.”
I came to Hawaii for an intensive, three day qigong course. Qigong is an ancient Chinese art. I’ll call it ‘standing meditation.’ I can’t say that I decided to come here to find myself, but I certainly came here for myself. I came here because I felt very strongly that I had to do something good for myself. I had to make a commitment to myself.
“It’s ironic, since of course you’re right here. But it’s not about that. It’s about the process.”
My spirit guide on the plane knew what I had yet to put into words. I live with myself and more often than not, I attempt to accept who, and what, I am, but I’ve been searching for the ‘me’ I want to be. I didn’t even begin the search until I turned 30. That was four years ago next month. Before that I fatefully expected never to become what I once dreamed for myself.
“I have some advice for you … be kind to yourself. If you were a child in your own care, would they call protective services on you?”
Yes. They would.
I never valued money. I barely valued possessions. I valued my family, but only in the way I might value a loan, or a gift I had not earned. I saw in them my own judgement. After all, when you don’t love yourself, how can you want to be near the people who know you better than anyone else? If they knew me like I had come to know myself then they could only be mirrors to my own weakness. Their belief in my potential only served to measure my shortcomings.
What I’m saying is, I’ve been depressed for most of my life. Ever since I finished high school I moved every year or two. I was trying to escape from my life. Which is to say that I was trying to escape from myself. And that cannot be done. I know.
“No matter what the problem is, you are the problem,” my friend on the plane said to me.
Of course I agree. Things are almost always a matter of perspective. Not to say that it’s easy to change one’s perspective. Moving has always seemed to help me for a time, but I always seemed to sink back into that same frame of mind. I still had no answers. Only different places and different people.
“Sometimes the answers to our questions are not important. Sometimes it’s the questions that we need.”
It’s about the process.
I moved to Seattle telling myself that it was a different kind of move. I wasn’t running away this time. No, this time I was going to find myself. To realize myself.
After two months of basically failing, I got on a plane and flew to Kauai to channel energy from the cosmos with a Qigong master, openly admitting that I wanted to miss my flight back to Seattle and stay somewhere warm. I hoped that Hawaii would welcome me like surrogate parents.
“Don’t bring any expectations with you to the islands,” my friend said.
I took those words with me to the three days of intense instruction and powerful meditative practice that is this particular school of qigong. I finished the first day feeling alright. I tried not to define my expectations but still I couldn’t help but expect something. I wanted an awakening.
After the second day of practice I realized something. There was no dramatic awakening coming. There was no explosive shift on the way. There was, however, a quiet realization. I felt a warmth inside myself I’ve only rarely come upon before. I realized that regardless of the things going on all around me, I am the only one responsible for my happiness. Or my depression.
I am the problem, but I am also the solution. Qigong isn’t a magic pill. Neither is religion, or love, or actual pills. They are just tools. It is up to you, and me, and everyone in their own lives to choose what they want, to find the tool they are most comfortable with, and to use that tool to create the life they want.
So, did I find me? I am me. I always have been. Whether depressed or content, I have always been with myself. I am the door and the key. Within me lies all the answers. To seek outwardly is, ironically, to get farther away. But searching outwardly has, eventually, lead me back home.
I landed safely in Seattle after three days of what I cannot describe to you. Before the class had ended I was offered two jobs – after two months of searching.
“Take life as it comes. Live in the moment.”
It’s a cliche because it’s true and it’s harder said than done, but here goes nothing.