by Dr Keith Beasley, University of Bristol
Whilst on holiday the week before delivering my Making Friends with Time webinar, I came across this church. I give the photo the title amanhã: the Portuguese equivalent to mañana. The church is on the wonderful Portuguese island of Madeira, and a clock without hands just seemed so appropriate, both to my talk and to being on holiday.
But why should synchronicities and flow only occur whilst on holiday? My experience is that they do not. Some decades after beginning my own contemplative/reflective practice (based around reiki healing but including many other modalities), I am finding that moments of flow are occurring within my working days now. Although sometimes the periods of flow do not feel that flowing! I may be able, efficiently and effectively, to get through a good few hour’s work … but my mind feels well, numb.
In the context of ME/CFS or long covid, I would say it feels like I have brain fog. But I recall, from my research of Rudolf Otto (The Idea of the Holy) that deep connections, those numinous experiences, can indeed take one’s mind somewhere beyond normal rational consciousness. Out of time, out of space.
Sometimes when working ‘in the zone’, I am very much aware that my conscious mind is not with it at all. On the contrary, my head feels like cotton wool!
In the early days of my journey into ‘transcending thought’, as I call such experiences in my PhD thesis, such numinous moments would usually correspond with doing reiki, watching a sunset, listening to a particularly inspired classical concert or other such connection through nature, the arts or spiritual practise.
But then I recall my very first significant numinous experience. It had none of these factors. I was driving home from having delivered my very first workshop. At the time I was working for an electronics company and my workshop, way back in the mid-1980s, was on how Quality Technicians could use personal computers!
So why had that made my brain numb? My mind was like mushy peas. Yet somehow, I drove home safely.
In hindsight, and after deep reflection, I see that experience as highlighting to me that I had found my calling. To teach, to inspire others. It had been such a wonderful and necessary experience that it had taken me into a different consciousness.
So, can that mental space, so different from normal rational consciousness, that I experienced as an enlightenment into my future career, have anything at all to do with the brain fog experienced by those with long covid or CFS (for example)? Maybe.
Let us start with the observation that no one really seems to understand what is happening in long covid or CFS. Brain fog is just one of many possible symptoms. But it is agreed that it represents those moments, or sometimes quite prolonged spells, when we are unable to use our brain in a conventional, rational manner. Might our inner/higher self, during these periods, be trying to tell us something?
It also strikes me as significant that all this brain fog is occurring now, at this particular point in humanity’s evolution. Why?
In my thesis I describe ‘the transcendence movement’, meaning those individuals and organisations that recognise some form of consciousness beyond the rational. Those within the transcendence movement adopt a lifestyle and practices with the intent of working with such consciousness and developing it within themselves and others. Indeed, I would give the Contemplative Pedagogy Network as an example of an organisation within the transcendence movement. For the very reason that we are consciously encouraging and enabling those in HE and FE to become more contemplative, to let go of the rational mind … at least occasionally.
But what if something along similar lines is also happening subconsciously, within a wider cross-section of society? Would that not be consistent with the idea of some sort of evolutionary consciousness; an innate imperative at work within each of us? Might such a deep, underlying shift in consciousness, taking place subconsciously (or perhaps super-consciously) offer some explanation for brain-fog?
Maybe, with so much happening in the world that I find so deeply disturbing or at least concerning, I am just looking for something, anything, to give me some hope. Or maybe there is something in this and it is worth at least a research proposal?