Martine & Stephen

Batchelor

Recently I read a book called “The Day the Voices Stopped: A Memoir of Madness and Hope” written by Ken Steele.  In this book Ken Steele tells us of his life with schizophrenia. The first seven chapters are really harrowing.  He tells us of all his ups and downs with his illness, the dreadful stays in mental hospitals, and the people taking advantage of him in his life outside of them.  Time to time he meets good supportive people and his creative potential appears and it gives the reader a glimmer of hope but on the main it is not a light read.  But I feel that it is an important book to read to understand and see how it is for people who suffer from mental illnesses.

The 8th chapter, where Ken Steele describes what happened when his voices stopped, is extremely revealing and surprising.  After taking a new medical drug for a few months, the voices suddenly disappear and are replaced by the sounds of the air conditioner.  He switches off the air conditioner and is assailed by all the noises he never heard before because of the loudness of the voices in his head.  At that moment he feels extremely disturbed because what he had been used to for 32 years has gone.  Then he realizes that actually he had been attached to the specialness of having these voices constantly droning on.  Now he feels alone and afraid.  But as he slowly adapts to this new situation, he starts to experience the world in a very different way.  He really hears people, sees them, greets them, etc.  He truly becomes part of the world, can engage with it in a creative manner and becomes an effective mental health activist and advocate.

I was struck by the moment when the voices stopped.  I wondered if something similar does not happen when we practice meditation.  When we stop identifying with the mental habits that fix us and cut us off from others and the world, when we can let go, the world suddenly opens and we can see it, hear it and connect with it in a different way.  The barrier of our endless planning, comparing, story making is not in the way anymore.  When we first let go, it is such a shock, we feel so different in comparison to the noisiness to our mind before.  It is like one of these “before and after” pictures.  But overtime as we become used to letting go, it is not such a contrast anymore.  This openness and stability becomes more ordinary and our creative potential can unfold and manifest more easily.

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