Is Rock Bottom Inevitable? Part 1

[Don’t feel like reading? Scroll down for the audio version]

Ok, I don’t want to get too excited about this just yet, but I think all this chasing after Spring Mind is starting to pay off (and not just because of my mindful Instagramming). I can feel myself getting closer to a Matrix moment: all of the different things I’ve been reading and trying out are starting to form connections to each other in my head and I’m seeing common themes, areas of overlap, ways in which the different practices can complement each other—in short, some very hazy initial outlines of a unifying theory of Spring Mind. It’s not much but it’s a great start, even though it brings back memories of that time at the end of my first year of law school, when I suddenly “got” Roman law after feeling like a complete idiot for the entire year (our professor, whose teaching methods were as ancient as his subject matter, told us we just had to learn everything by heart without trying to understand and it would all make sense in the end. It did, but I still think there’s a better way.)

So, law school flashbacks notwithstanding, this incipient theory-building is generally a pretty nice, peaceful activity. I imagine my neurons leisurely chatting in front of the fireplace, while I look on with a benevolent smile: [professorial neuron voice] “Right, so ‘time in’ includes both meditation and prayer, and that’s really good for you, and the inner critic is just another way of looking at shame, and pretending the inner critic is a separate person is just a neat way of creating observer mind, which really helps you process emotion, and self-compassion is how you connect to the mother archetype, but that’s of course only after you’ve hit rock bottom…”

Wait, what?! What what what? We were doing so well, you guys! What is this nonsense talk of rock bottom? Now I know English is not your first language, so maybe you meant bottoms of rock? (My benevolent smile becomes ever so slightly condescending) I believe the expression is “buns of steel”. I’m all for that of course but I hadn’t realized it was a prerequisite for spiritual evolution, although the psychological benefits of exercise are very well documented, so yes, you probably have a point…

But my neurons shoot me a disdainful look: “No, woman, we meant rock bottom. Check the literature.” And, I hate to say it, they’re right. From Jesus to Liz Gilbert, from Brené Brown to the legend of the Phoenix, it’s there: the turning point in any spiritual journey is (gulp) rock bottom.  We rise from the ashes, not from a slightly less than comfortable chair. It’s step 8 in the classic 12-step Hero’s Journey: Ordeal, Death and Rebirth. As per Christopher Vogler, “This is the moment at which the hero touches bottom. He/she faces the possibility of death, brought to the brink in a fight with a mythical beast. […] It’s a major source of the magic of the hero myth.” Oh wait, maybe I can play the woman card here, let’s check out the Heroine’s Journey, c/o Maureen Murdoch. Ugh. Step 5: “Awakening to feelings of spiritual aridity. Death.”  And we’re wired for story, so that must mean…damn it…that must mean that we’re also wired for rock bottom. And if rock bottom isn’t naturally forthcoming, then we will do our best to create it: in at least one version of the myth, the Phoenix sets fire to its own nest.

Not good. Not good, neurons. I didn’t sign up for Spring Mind to get to Rock Bottom. I mean, really—if they were places, Spring Mind would be a balmy mountain resort, with cosy B&Bs where you can have breakfast outside—and they give you blankets, too. Rock Bottom is this sandy, deserted, middle of nowhere place, kind of like Radiator Springs. You know, the place where Lightning McQueen ends up in the Disney movie Cars. Fate delivers him there because he needs to get to…oh no…“That’s it”, my neurons say with a smirk, “because he needs to get to rock bottom. And you know what else is interesting? It’s called Radiator Springs. Doesn’t that ring a bell? Maybe Rock Bottom and Spring Mind aren’t that far apart.”

Which is all a bit too much for me to process at the moment, and I have a kiddie party to get to (maybe that can be my personal rock bottom?), so we’ll look more into that next week. See you soon, keep springing!

Cover photo copyright: belyay / 123RF Stock Photo

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