The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?
If you have watched the movie The Matrix (it’s a pretty clear analogy for those that haven’t) you will remember the scene at the beginning where Keanu Reeves (Neo) had to make a choice between two pills. The red pill offered Neo would awaken him to the ‘reality‘ of life while the blue left everything as he thought it was.
You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
The premise of the start of the movie is that Neo is struggling with the same feeling some of us may also have at moments that there must be something more to life than the every day we experience.
Neo is feeling that the world is unreal, that there’s something missing. He’s been searching for something, and if he doesn’t take the offer now, he’s going to return to his old life where ‘he’s not sure if he’s awake or still dreaming’.
I am not suggesting that the meaning of life is detailed in a Hollywood movie; a more unlikely scenario is hard to imagine. However, the analogy works well in this context because at some stage in your life you may be offered or have already been presented with the same ‘pill choice‘ as Neo, although it will most likely be in a far subtler form. What may come as a surprise to you when you look back later in your life is that you casually chose the red pill, usually because it was offered in a very non-threatening sweetie wrapper. Maybe you overlooked the small print warning about ‘rabbit holes‘ but more likely that part of the package wasn’t even mentioned!
The trigger for this pharmaceutical moment could be a result of many possible scenarios. It might be a something major, a personal crisis such as the loss of someone you love or the overwhelming fear of inevitable death, as it was with my mother:
I was in my 50th year  when I woke one night with the overwhelming realisation that I was going to die. Death was not imminent, but it was inescapable. It was an appalling realisation, and the naked terror of it was absolute. For the next six months, I was haunted by a psychological blackness.
Alternatively, maybe you feel a dissatisfaction with life, a total ‘flatness‘ with whatever materialises or an elusive feeling that life has so much more to offer beyond the never-ending accumulation of physical things and striving for new emotional highs. It could also be as basic as wanting to advance your circumstances at work, improve sleeping or find that perfect partner. Whatever the situation somehow you open yourself up to a red pill or blue pill moment.
In my case, this scenario happened in 1980 when my mother suggested I join a meditation group as a way to assist with my depression, a condition that I had experienced on and off for a lot of my early adult life. For me, the red pill came in a comfortable ‘meditation‘ wrapper and no rabbit holes were mentioned. As a result of this very down to earth motivator, I was introduced to an Indian guru (teacher) called Swami Baba Muktananda and a path called Siddha Yoga, which incorporated a range of disciplines centred around meditation to connect with and develop a state of inner peace.
The next few years were spent in a very concentrated and focussed practice of Siddha Yoga because I applied the normal logic that the harder one worked on a project, even if a spiritual one, the better the outcome in a quicker time frame. Over time my involvement broadened and my initial expectations of continued meditation expanded beyond ‘just‘ being a solution to depression to a broader ‘spiritual‘ destination. However, because the structure of this path of exploration was contained within an Indian spiritual philosophy and as unlike Amy, I wasn’t academically minded enough to delve into the literature on the subject, I had only a vague idea of what this theoretical endpoint might look like. February 2019: Nearly forty years later it is my belief that even had I been a reader, many of the works on this topic (as I touched on in Amy’s book) are misleading and do not provide clarity about either the process or the end result.
It is only more recently that I have discovered that the destination is actually nothing like the one I was expecting to reach based on my cursory reading of the spiritual ‘sales‘ brochures in earlier times and this might apply to others reading these words.
My misconception was that by being a dedicated meditator (substitute whatever discipline you are following) and doing the practices, at some point there would be a final internal big bang self-realisation/enlightenment moment. This would be the payback for all my hard-spiritual work and would become my new reality in the form of an uplifted life full of all the good stuff – joy, love, bliss, energy and happiness to the exclusion of all the bad stuff such as anger, fear, jealousy, depression and hatred. I expected to still be me but a better and happier me.
Instead, I find myself experiencing a whole different scenario that was impossible to conceive or believe at the beginning of the journey because it falls totally outside all the criteria I would have considered normal, logical and sane. In fact, during the period I call the Transition, which I describe later, I experienced moments of almost anger at where I found myself. I hadn’t been told this is what would happen and I certainly wasn’t sure it was how I wanted my life to be. If this sounds very negative don’t think that I despair now! Although my current situation may not be what I had expected it has been transforming and after acclimatisation, it has become perfectly natural. I will explain all later.
Let’s move on. In the following chapters, I will touch on the three stages I use to describe my journey so far and then expand on some of the areas I feel need more explanation to give a better understanding of the changes I describe.
I believe that there is limited usefulness in going into the minute details of a journey such as mine even if I could as much of it is forgotten. Although there may be some aspects that might run in parallel with others, the reality is that each person’s path is so individual that one list of experiences is unlikely to be repeated. For example, my mother and I were both involved with Siddha Yoga at much the same time and followed a path with meditation as its core, yet when I read her book A Journey to Truth the daily entries in contains detail a life that had little in common with mine although I can relate to many of her insights. Bernadette Roberts has been invaluable, but much of her journey has involved her trying to fit experiences into a Christian framework, something that has no relevance for me.
So rather than turn this into a historical saga of my life I will touch on the stages of this journey that I believe could be broadly common to many on this path in whatever form that might present itself. So, to repeat myself because I think it is important, keep in mind that each of our progress stories and milestones will be unique, so this isn’t intended to be a definitive statement of how things unfold for you and it certainly isn’t a ‘how to‘ guide to anything:
I don’t think we should get locked into any stage theory; it is always someone else’s retrospective view of his or her own journey, which may not include our own experiences or insights. Our obligation is to be true to our own insights, our own inner light. BR
The three stages I identify as clearly unique periods on my journey so far (with one more to discover) and write about in detail are:
Stage One – The Inner Journey: An intense period of working on practices aimed at discovering an internal place of stillness. I used these disciplines as an inner break from the world and as a base from which to tackle the challenges presented to me externally. I still lived in duality with an inner core of peace touched on in meditation and then an external life trying to cope with all the usual challenges of the everyday. I felt that I was on a path to an ultimate transformative experience, but I wasn’t very clear about what that might look like.
Stage Two – Self-destruction: My inner search continued, but in a very haphazard way compared to my discipline of the past. For decades, I wouldn’t have described myself as being on any path, although I did maintain an inner connection to Siddha Yoga and its practices. During this time, I went through an unknowing process of self-destruction that was necessary to move into the next stage.
For much of this period I was intensely unhappy and in later years some of this unhappiness was generated by my increasing isolation from all the emotions that kept me anchored to and engaged with life as I knew it. For any of you who have listened to the words of Eckhardt Tolle or read his books, you will recall that his earlier life, culminating in a final and permanent transformative experience, had deep depression as its foundation. I guess that if the world is exactly as you want it to be you aren’t motivated, consciously or subconsciously, to look for alternatives to change it.
Stage Three – Living with No-Self: As Stage Two came to an end there was a period when I alternated between it and Stage Three, a process I call the Transition, a most uncomfortable time as the negative forces of the mind fought to maintain their dominance and to counteract the diminishing relevance of the self. This transition eventually passed, resulting in a period of acclimatisation, which led to a new experience of reality. Since then I have settled into a way of being that is very different from before and deepens the longer I remain in it, which is where I now find myself.
Stage Three is memorable in that it represents the first time that an altered perception of life didn’t just happen temporarily while undertaking formal practices such as meditation, but has now become a permanent state of being and those historical disciplined practices have now become irrelevant.
Stage Four and beyond. I believe that there is more to come and I write about that in a separate chapter titled ‘Where to Next?‘
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