Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stay Down: A reflection on my experience of 2009

When I look back on my experience of 2009 in many ways the main underlying theme of the year for me, personally, was that of recovering from and integrating all that I experienced in 2008 - and to some extent the last ten years (1999 - 2009) as well.
(for a brief re-cap this music video pretty nicely sums up my experience of 2008. This song accompanies the title for this entry here.)

In a number of ways I feel as if I had quite a few traumas, unresolved pain, and just a general sense of "what have I done?" left over from the last ten years that I had to work through. And this year, 2009, was the first time since 2001 that I was living at one place for the entire year, thereby providing a nice, safe, stable living environment conducive for me to do this kind of inner work.

The first five months of 2009 I was primarily focused on traditional organized religion as a way to support me in finding more stability, grounding, and healing in my life. Primarily Buddhism, Christianity, and the Baha'i Faith were the religions that I was exploring. The Baha'i Faith, which is the religion that I was born into and raised with, I became so involved with during early 2009 that I came very close to officially re-joining as a member. I did not end up re-joining it, however, for I was clear-headed enough to be able to realize that there are a number of different statements and beliefs coming from the Baha'i central figures that I fundamentally disagree with. I yearned for a deep sense of devotion, belonging, community, and faith, and for a while I was attached to the idea of the Baha'i Faith being my means for getting all of that in a sustainable and ongoing way.

An interesting thing is that during the time-period in which I was doing the prayers, meditation, and other devotional acts within the Baha'i Faith I did indeed feel more grounded, healthy, and spiritually nourished than I have felt for a long time. When I stopped doing them I felt differently. Different, not necessarily worse, for other needs were then focused on and met.

The period of time after this (May, June, July) I was focused very heavily on doing Nonviolent Communication work in the form of empathic listening, self-empathic inquiry, and self-reflection using NVC for guidance. It was also during this time that I discovered the work of Stephen Schwartz that goes by the name of "Compassionate Self-Care". This had a profound effect on me, enabling me to go through an experience of mourning, and from that find a level of self-acceptance and self-valuing that was deeply supportive for me to move forward.

Another factor that was helpful for me regarding all of this was the existence of regular ongoing empathy partners throughout the year, that is, people with whom I regularly met with in-person or on the phone to give and receive empathic listening with. This is something that I have very much wanted throughout my life, but have not had due to the instability in my life for so long. Now with one steady stable home-base and a daily/weekly schedule present in my life, I have been able to establish these kinds of ongoing regular supportive relationships.

Speaking of relationships, the whole second half of the year contained within it a big element of - being in love. In June I entered into a new romantic relationship with a coworker at Camphill Soltane. The experience has been deeply nourishing for me. The person is a very calm, grounded, and secure person, and being around her I believe has aided me in developing these same qualities within myself as well. With this, it is not a particular belief system or series of spiritual/self-help practices that has supported me, but a real human relationship of depth, meaning, intimacy, and partnership. I feel profoundly grateful for this.

The experience of being a part of a community, engaging in meaningful work, having ongoing mutually-supportive relationships with real people in my daily life - has been quite profound for me as well. In many ways living/working at Camphill Soltane is nothing new for me for I have been a part of communes before, I have done the circuit of esoteric spiritual ideologies, and being around different weird & crazy folk has been my bread & butter. So that has helped to prepare me for all of this and life at Soltane has been no "shock" for me as a result.

This is not to say that it has not been challenging for me at times. I have struggled at times with great frustrations and judgments. Sometimes I have managed my own inner-energy poorly, resulting in me feeling quite "burned-out". But at the end of it all, it all seems manageable to me, with lots of learning & growth to be had from the experience.

Although I have been living and working surrounded by people, many of whom are often quite loud, dramatic, and seemingly unpredictable, the real work for me this year was primarily internal, as you have probably already guessed by now. I began the year by reading the book "Walking in the Shade" and ended it by reading The Golden Notebook, both by Doris Lessing. These two books each in their own ways document a certain period of time of Doris Lessing's life which she describes as: "I was writing my way out of one set of ideas, even out of a way of life." Through my own ongoing year-long process of self-examination that was my experience of 2009 as well.

Many different core pieces of my old identity dropped away this year. It was this year that I stopped referring to myself as "(I)An-ok", that I ceased to consider myself as being "an anarchist", and that I no longer saw myself as being some big drop-out/commune guy. No big new identity, label, or grand agenda arose to replace all of that - and that feels pretty good. Many of my core values are still the same, although a lot of the outward forms and content are different. I simply no longer feel the drive to be quite so ostentatious about all of it.


Anonymous said...


Duchesse said...

I am heartened and peacefully happy reading of the latest events in your life, Ian.
Kathleen in Toronto

Marcus said...

This is an inspiring read, Ian. To me it's still radical and somewhat frightening, this ever-widening habit of sharing personal stories on the public internet, but they do make for wonderful offerings (speaking of this one, at least), and I'm encouraged to do more myself. Letter-writing, and in its broader sense literature (common etymology, I believe), is far older than blogs or Twitter. What a gift that these tools expand the possibilities and ease of writing and correspondence, including the potential blessings of exposure.