AT Preparation videos:
Since 2010, I have walked a slow path towards serenity through a psychological desert. Learning to live a happy life, an artist and poet in a scientist’s body I drifted through elite universities until 2013. MIT, Emory, Harvard, and Princeton were all stops on this drift. During this time, each encounter with the educational establishment brought me to a place of turmoil for a time. I would always hit a wall where the scope of learning was too narrow. Most of the time, in these environments being an inch wide and a mile deep is rewarded. To me, everything is connected. My thoughts can flow between science, art, religion, nature, and business. As a result, it have been hard to find a place where I fit. Upon the arrival of 2013, I entered two years of Messianically trying to “save” people in lower socio-economic classes than the one I was raised in. First with working with refugees and then teaching in a Title I public school, I tried to give of my heart in a selfless manner. Unfortunately, in doing this I slowly realized that my heart was running on empty. Earning little money and finding myself in substandard stressful working conditions, I began to explore on the side alternative ways of living. Having read The Man Who Quit Money in 2012, I realized slowly that it is possible to live a very happy life without much money. When done with a spirit of humility and serenity, living simply can clarify the soul. It is hard to think about another way of living at this point. Three weeks ago, I decided to resign from my position as a provisional teacher. I had reached a breaking point where classroom management issues overwhelmed my ability to cope.
Fortunately, I had been connecting with people into alternative economics and the gift economy on Facebook. Facebook for me became a window onto another way to live. Realizing that the people surrounding me were not like me, I felt alone. Cyber relationships helped me to thrive in my spirit realizing that there are others out there that share my distrust of the capitalist hamster wheel that many of us seem to be on. Running around from the crack of dawn to the dark of night, many of us working or who have worked in this system live isolated lives devoid of authentic love and community. It is apparent that we all need friends and family, particularly when one is a sensitive spirit in touch with extremes of human experience. The highs are higher and the lowers are lower when one like me struggles with manic depressive illness. Often, the mental health system prescribes and almost forces such souls to take psychoactive medications that narrow this emotional bandwidth. Leveling emotional experience, medications for manic depressive illness dampen day to day experience. Colors are dull, lethargy rules, and a seemingly unending cycle of self deprecation rules in the cage of the majority of the sectors American mental health system that I have seen so far. Seeking to return to some sense of normality in being a high functioning person, these experiences have led me to take the step of trying it on my own without the system. I surround myself with people that support me spiritually and provide critical and supportive feedback. It is this community that is the key to well being.
As the mind is embodied, physical exercise is vital to mental health for me. Unfortunately, following cycles of darkness for a time my body withered. It is this situation that I aim to fix via walking. I have always had the dream of doing a long hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT). I envision the hike as a purification ritual. An extremely challenging test of physical and mental endurance. I am spiritually ready for this journey. It is time to go to nature and find Mother Nature’s healing water. Waking with the sun, being on the trail will help me return to what is essential. I envision the AT as a wilderness pilgrimage. Pilgrimages have been part of the human experience since the dawn of civilization. From the pilgrimages of Catholics in Spain to the walks of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and people of the Bon faith around Mount Kailash many cultures share the common experience of occasionally stepping away from the confines of society and entering the ascetic path. If for only a time, voluntarily stripping one’s life down to the bare essentials is a purifying process. It is this experience that I am about to embark upon. Inspired by friends, a journey up the AT will give me time to calm my anxious mind and live within the present. Blisters, muscle cramps, bugs, etc. all are part of the fun. It is my hope and prayer that this journey will reveal my true purpose and calling. I have been working very hard the past three weeks to come up with unique ways of documenting and perhaps making a career as a pilgrim. In the very least, this journey will help my body, mind, and spirit return to a state resembling that before 2010. A 2200 mile walk as a prayer, a meditation of hope and serenity. In less than three weeks I will be surrounded by the Spirit of Nature. Gear purchased, weighed, and documentation tools in place it is almost time to embark. I am excited! Relishing each day, life is good now!
InnerLight Enlightenment by Dr. William Kaya Erbil is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.