When I was thirteen I began having a crisis of faith. At least that’s what I called it at the time. In reality it was more of a crisis of existence. I was stuck on the questions – What am I? What is this? What is going on? Reality made no sense. To a lesser degree it still doesn’t.
Those questions kept swirling around in my mind for well over a year. I would find myself praying to God, over and over, asking those same questions, over and over.
Be careful what you wish for.
By the time I turned fifteen I had resigned myself to never knowing these answers, but I took solace that no one else knew. It was about this time that I started having petite seizures. At the time I didn’t know what they were. Petite seizures are like little jolts of electricity that broke my train of thoughts and left me wondering what just happened. (I’d lose about two seconds of memory.) It was difficult covering up my lapses. People would be talking to me, and my head might twitch, but there was no outward sign that anything about me had changed. So when my response to our conversation wasn’t quite right, they would often regard me as insulting or aloof. A missing two or three seconds of any conversation left me putting together puzzles without all the pieces.
At the time I didn’t understand what I was experiencing. Imagine getting directions from someone and losing a couple of seconds: Zap. “What? Oh, sorry. Head down East third to . . .” Zap. “Okay, lets start again, head down East third. . .” – It’s a bit unnerving to say the least. And anyone you’re talking to thinks you’re an asshole. Petite mal seizures would hit me nearly twenty times an hour – all day.
All the while this is going on, I continued to pester God, “What is going on?” “What am I” “What is this?” “How can this possibly be real?”
I didn’t have my first Grand Mal seizure until I was 18. Even then I didn’t understand what was going on. I woke up with a huge knot on my head where I had fallen. Only, I didn’t know that I had fallen. I didn’t know my own name. A full grand-mal is a truly jarring experience. Cascades of electricity shoot out of my brain, leaving me to fall, face first, wherever I am at the time. My muscles would tighten to their maximum tightness for the next four to ten minutes. It’s a hell of a workout. I would wake up feeling like I had run a marathon on my hands. Everything hurt. My toes hurt. And the soreness would go on for over a week.
Waking up from a grand mal is another test of endurance. A full blown seizure would leave me thinking – nothing. Not a thing. Like a computer overload, my brain was wiped. I had no memory of anything. Complete amnesia.
It’s a strange thing to have amnesia on a regular basis. There’s about three minutes when even the language center of my brain hasn’t kicked in. I can hear what people are saying to me, but nothing makes sense. It’s at these times I can’t even think in words. Just emotions and thoughts. Who am I? What am I? – I am fear. I am pain and suffering. I am panic.
The experience would leave me in total panic. The pain was from the bloody knot on my head from the fall. The suffering would come from my body after it’s marathon session of flexing. Panic would set in as people would be surrounding me, asking questions like, “are you alright?” “Who is our current president?” “Do you know what day of the week this is?”
I’m 46 years old now. Even on medication I had on average three grand mal seizures a year for over twenty years. Many, many, trips to the hospital. Not a lot of fun. And still, the worst part of epilepsy is the petite seizures. I still have those, although not as much as I use to.
But God answered my question. God came thru in the end. What are we? What is going on? Why are we here? What am I?
I followed the Buddhist path to enlightenment. Many years ago it occurred to me that what Buddhist monks were trying to accomplish through meditation, I had achieved through malady. Try this exercise yourself. Try not to think. Try to clear your mind of your own thoughts. It’s not an easy thing to do. After a grand mal seizure I had no thoughts. My brain was a clean slate. It’s the definition of amnesia.
I had trained myself to answer those dumb questions people asked after a seizure. Who is our President? What year is this? I had forced those answers into my brain, even without understanding what they meant. I would answer, “Clinton or Bush” without even understanding what a President was. I would tell them what year it was without knowing what a year was. Knowing this, I tried to force another first thought into my mind.
“Relax” “Breath” “Try not to think” “be one with the universe.” “No pain.” – – – Not an easy thing to do or think about when you wake up in extreme anguish. But, after a dozen or so grand mals, I achieve just that. I clearly remember the first time I touched oneness. I was in my father’s office when I woke up. I recognized the scene. Pain and suffering filled every inch of me. I tried to breath. I tried to relax. And then there I was. Everywhere.
Don’t let anyone try to sell you that oneness is like heaven. It’s not. My first experience was jarring and scarey. Oneness is like being hit by a train. It’s too much. Reality isn’t reality if you are not separate from it. Oneness loses your self. Which is still of consternation to me – it’s a hard thing to reconcile.
Subsequent visits to everything became manageable at least in a psychological sense. I slowly began to understand what I was experiencing and I achieved peace with it. I’ve told this story to friends and family – often falling on deaf ears. For those interested in the experience of oneness, I can only say, – – – don’t worry about it. There will be time enough for oneness when you are dead. Which leaves me shaking my head in dismay at the billions of sky pilots jabbering into heaven on this planet. I understand it. Those billions are me when I was 13. They are all asking, what am I?
If I took one thing away from the experience it’s that – – God doesn’t want us to spend our time praising her. God wants us to live. Also – God is everything and everyone.
Obviously I took away much more from my brief moments of oneness. I could spend days trying to relay the emotional impact of my religious experience but in the end, that’s what life is. Life is the journey to finding ourselves thru this reality. Trying to convey my journey is just one more story in your journey. Relish your path. Enjoy your existence while you have it. It won’t last forever.