Note: I have bipolar disorder, and I wrote this story in 2007. I hope some of you may find it as healing to read, as it was for me to write.
The Story of the Spiral
Imagine that you live in a spiral-shaped land, where half of the people live in a dark, gloomy forest, and the other half live in the beautiful, sunny spaces in between the spirals of darkness.
Now, if you live inside the spiral forest, you know that this is not a pleasant place to be. The trees are so dense that they block out almost all the light, and the air is so stifling and smothering, it feels like you can’t quite catch your breath. Also, there are lots of scary things living in there with you.
But the longer you live in the forest, the more the environment affects your brain, and the more you forget how dangerous it is to stay there. You begin to compensate with various means in order to survive even the darkest part of the forest, and soon, it begins to feel normal to live there.
Eventually, you begin to learn the ins and outs of living in the forest. You start to believe that the air is not poisonous, and the “sunny land” that supposedly exists outside the forest is just a myth. You hear tales of people who live in the light, who don’t have to compensate, and who are very healthy and happy… but those stories seem like fairy tales. You think to yourself, it’s never possible to get out, so why even try?
Then one day, out of the blue, you realize how sick and tired you are of living in the forest. Your back hurts from jumping over logs. Your bones are weak from lack of vitamin D and lack of sunlight. Your body is not healthy, because it subsists on foods that live in the dark. Basically, you’re tired of compensating. And you ask yourself…is there a better way to live?
Then all of a sudden, through the trees, you see a vision. You see a person, or what looks like a person, who looks radiant and healthy and happy. She sees you, and she beckons to you. She looks so different…glowing, healthy, happy. This can’t be true! Humans can’t look like this, can they? She beckons to you again, and slowly you go over to her.
“Have you seen the path out of here?” she asks you.
“Out of where?” you ask.
“Out of the forest,” she replies.
“What on Earth are you talking about?” you ask. “The forest is all that there is. There is no other place.”
“No, the place where I come from is not like this,” she explains. “I need to get back, but I lost the path. Have you seen it?”
“Path? What path?” you ask. “What are you talking about? What place? There is no other place but this place.”
Now you begin to believe that you’re talking to a crazy person, and so you hastily leave. In fact, you almost run away. But you take a quick look back, and you see that all of a sudden she’s gone…as if she was never even there. You tell yourself that the vision wasn’t real. You tell yourself that it never happened…that it was a dream, or a result of eating those bad mushrooms the other day. But it seemed so real. It seemed so very, very, real.
For the next few days, you can’t get the experience out of your mind. The path. What path? Is there really a path? If so, where does it lead? What other place could there be? Who made the path? You begin to wonder, maybe it was made long ago, and now the trees and the mushrooms and the ferns and the moss have over-grown it? Maybe it is there, but underneath the forest floor? You begin to have a little hope that maybe there really is a path.
You decide, just in case it wasn’t a dream, that you would keep your eyes open as you forage for food on the forest floor. Just in case, you decide that instead of just looking for daily subsistence, you’ll keep your eyes out for a path out of here.
Days lapse into weeks, and weeks lapse into months. You keep looking for an evidence of a path, but it eludes you. Once, you thought you saw something, but it frightened you and you ran away. When you ran back to look again, it wasn’t there. But you keep looking…looking…looking, always looking.
And then, one day, you realize that maybe you aren’t looking in the right way. You know that when you look for food, you need to use all of your senses. You use your head, your heart, your brain, your intuition, your sense of smell, touch, etc…. But you have only been looking for the path with your eyes. You think, maybe if you close your eyes and use all your senses, you’ll see something new. So you start looking with new eyes.
So you close your eyes, and you listen with your ears, and then, out of nowhere, you finally hear a voice. It tells you to go to the old oak tree next to the waterfall and look inside. So you do. You reach inside, and pull something out. And it’s a map. A map of the forest. But this map has paths on it!
As you look more closely at the map, you see that some of the paths take you further and further inwards, towards the dark center of the forest. But there are also paths that take you outward. And each path has a different name…the Path of Religion…the Path of Contemplation…the Path of Misery…the Path of Action….the path of Inaction….the Path of Compassion…the path of Lovingkindness…The path of Music…the Path of Writing….the path of Physical Endurance…the Path of Suffering…the Path of Math…the Path of Science…the Path of Creativity….the Path of Psychology…the Path of Philosophy! There is even a path of Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll!
And as you look at the map even closer, the forest seems to be filled with many smaller paths…way too many to name, and none of which you have ever seen. You also notice that the map also has landmarks and reference points and symbols, and there are explanations to what each one means.
You decide to go look for a landmark, and lo and behold, you find a path! You finally found a path! No wonder you couldn’t find a path before; you just never knew what you were looking for. How could anyone find a path if they don’t know what it looks like? But once you know what you’re looking for, now it seems so easy and clear!
And so you follow the path for a while. Maybe this one doesn’t really feel right to you, so you go try another one. And another one. And very soon, you find a path that seems to be your perfect fit. And as you get better at following the path, you begin notice the landmarks, and the warning signs that tell you when you’ve gotten off the path.
Then one day, as you’re following one of your favorite paths…you see a bright light in the forest. You walk closer to it, and you realize that the dark forest is disappearing…the trees are gone, and all around you is light. This freaks you out, because your world seems to be dissolving all around you. So you get scared and run back onto the path and stay back in the forest where it’s “safe.”
It was a really scary experience, but soon, you recover. A few days later, you decide to go see if it was real. So you go back…and you take the path into the light…and it’s so bright you can hardly see. You start walking, but there are no trees, no ferns, no reference points….just this green stuff on the ground everywhere, as far as the eye can see. And you find yourself getting lost, and panicked. You’ve lost your reference points! And you run back into the forest, exclaiming to people what you had found.
At first, people are very concerned about you, and want to help, but as you begin to try explain to them what you saw, they keep telling you that it wasn’t real. But you insist that it was real. And then they ask you if you’ve been eating those strange mushrooms that you were told to stay away form on the forest floor, because strange things have been known to happen from eating those mushrooms.
“No!” you say, “I did not eat any strange mushrooms! It was real, I tell you. It felt more real than anything else here!!”
Pretty soon, nobody wants to listen to you anymore, and everyone tells each other to just ignore you, because now that they think about it, you have been acting very strangely lately, talking about these imaginary paths and landmarks that don’t exist. They tell you that if you weren’t eating bad mushrooms, then you must be crazy, because there is no path…there is no bright light in the forest. They calmly explain to you that it doesn’t exist and that it’s all in your imagination. They ask you what kind of stress you’ve been under lately, and you think to yourself, “Well, maybe I am stressed. Maybe I am sick.”
After a while, they even have you almost convinced that you’re crazy, and that there is no other place but here. And you feel defeated…how can you possibly get them to see the other place, when they haven’t even seen a path? On one hand, you think you might be crazy, but on the other hand, you know it’s real. And worst of all, you feel so alone…like you will never ever be more alone than you are right now, because everyone thinks you’re crazy, and you know that you are not. But nobody will listen to you…and you’ve never felt more alone than you do now.
This alone feeling now pervades your every inch of your soul. You feel empty and alone and sad and defeated and rejected. Soon, you don’t even want to interact with these other people, because in order to fit in, you have to pretend that there isn’t a path or a whole different place of lightness out there…but you know that there is.
As time goes by, you become tired of being rejected by society, so you try to do whatever you can to fit in. So, you do what you can to gain companionship…and you start to pretend to act like someone “normal”. Pretty soon, you learn to pretend you aren’t who you really are. You create a new version of yourself, one that will be more accepted by society. You stifle those experiences that you had…you ignore them…you pretend to become a part of the forest community once again. And after a while, even you begin to believe that that is who you are. Everybody congratulates you on how better you are now that you’re back to “normal” now.
But after a while, this makes you even more depressed, so pretty soon you just wall yourself off from everyone but just a few other people. You might just interact with those people you need to on a daily basis for survival, but your heart isn’t in it. You don’t even attempt to date anymore, because they are afraid that you’ll go “crazy” again someday, and they don’t want to be there if it happens. And even if you do find someone who is willing to date you, as soon as you mention the place of lightness….they are gone.
Pretty soon, the depression gives way to acceptance that this is just the way that life is, and you resign yourself to keep on pretending to fit in with the rest of the forest, and pursue other areas of interest. Maybe, you think, just maybe someday you’ll meet someone else who has experienced what you have. It’s a slim hope, but it’s there.
Then, one day, as you’re searching for some mushrooms to eat, you come across a person running wildly in the forest, waving his arms, and shouting about another place filled with a beautiful, bright light. He looks frenzied and scared, and terrified. Nobody else wants to talk to him, because he’s kind of frantic, but you remember that look…you know that look. You’ve experienced that look!
So you talk to him. And you tell him it’s ok…that you know what he’s seen and you know that he’s not imagining it. You tell him that you know it’s real, because you have seen it, too.
When he calms down, and you warn him that others will come soon and tell him that he’s crazy or eating magic mushrooms, but you know that he’s not. And you tell him to hold that vision in his head, and don’t let it go. Soon enough, a crowd of people who heard the commotion come over and ask what happened, and the new guy tells them his story…but they look down and see the mushrooms in your hands, and they accuse you of giving him bad mushrooms to eat. They all walk away, saying that he just ate “bad mushrooms.”
After everyone else has left, the two of you are alone in the forest, and you ask him what path he used to find the place of lightness. He looks at you like he doesn’t know what you are talking about.
“What path?” he asks you.
You repeat the question. “What path did you use to find the light? The Path of Science? The Path of Religion? The Path of Sports? Which path?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says. “I don’t know what a path is. All I know is that one day I was walking along, kind of day-dreaming, and then I found myself in this place…I don’t know how to describe it…it’s just the most beautiful place I can explain. There is light all around…and you can breathe…and the smells are so…so…different! I felt I could really breathe for the first time in my life.”
“You mean, you were just walking and you found the lightness on your own? You didn’t use the path of religion, or the paths of meditation, yoga, advanced calculus or the path of contemplation? You mean to tell me that you didn’t even try the path of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll!? How did you find the lightness?”
“I don’t know,” he says, “It just happened. I really don’t know how I found it. I just found it. It just happened. I was day-dreaming…maybe I was thinking about something, but I don’t really know what…and it just happened. One minute I was here, and the next minute I was walking on this soft, green stuff…I don’t know how to describe it…it was soft, and plush, and it felt good on the feet. Kind of like moss, but taller.”
“Oh, yeah,” you say. “I vaguely remember that. I think I know what you’re talking about…but just barely. What else did you see?”
“Well, after the green stuff, there was this huge, huge….I don’t know what to call it…lots and lots of water.”
“Like the creek?” you ask.
“No. Wider, man, wider,” he says. “Kind of like a creek, but the water was still…and you can’t see the edges of it. And it was HUGE.”
He begins to tell you of other things he saw: huge rocks, the size of trees; large animals with four legs, and something growing out of the tops of their heads; and all kinds of different animals that he’s never seen before. But most of all, he said, his head was different. He could think faster. He could breathe. His body felt better. He could move without pain. He said he never knew he had pain until he felt life without pain. And the love, there was the most incredible feeling of love. He said it pervaded every cell and nerve and fiber and tissue of his being…he said he could never have imagined that kind of love before.
As he’s describing this place to you, you realize that you didn’t see or experience that kind of stuff when you were there. All you got was a glimpse of was the bright light.
“How long were you there?” you ask him.
“I don’t know, man,” he says. “It felt like days…maybe weeks. I’m not sure. You kind of lose track of time over there. I saw one guy over there who looked a lot like us, and he said he had been there for years. He looked pretty frantic, though. He was totally lost.”
Days?? Weeks? you think. “I was only there for a brief moment or two, and that was all I could handle. But if it was so beautiful, why were you so frantic?” you ask him.
“Because,” he said “at first I thought it was amazing, I understood how everything was. I understood all the secrets of the forest. I understood everything. And I could do things in the place of lightness that I couldn’t do here. I had powers there. It was amazing. But then I couldn’t figure out how to get back. I didn’t even know how I GOT there, so how could I get back? It was like being in a nightmare you can’t wake up from. It was terrifying. I thought I’d never get back. I thought I’d die….all these things around me…I didn’t know what they were…and I just wanted to get out of there, but I didn’t know how. So I freaked out.”
“You realize,” you tell him, “that although nobody believes you, you know that there is a different place beyond the darkness, right? You know it’s real, and I would like to show you other ways to get there.”
So you show him all the different paths, and the two of you find the place of lightness together. And because you have a friend, for safety, it doesn’t seem to be as scary this time. And soon, the two of you are able to walk together in the place of lightness, and point things out to each other. And life is so much better out here. And you realize that those old stories weren’t just a fairy tale. You can now see the dark forest for what it is…a dark, miserable place…and you are now able to experience a whole different world.
You meet others who have also found their way out of the forest, too, and soon, you find someone to fall in love with. And you’re happy….really, really, happy for the first time ever in your life. But you feel bad for the people that are still stuck there. In fact, you can’t stop thinking about those poor people in the forest who don’t believe there is a light.
Some people say to let the forest people alone, that they are too stupid to find the way out by themselves, let them just stay there. But there are others who feel the same way you do. You and a few others believe that the forest people aren’t stupid…they are just not aware that there IS a place of light. They’ve never been told in a way that makes sense to them. They don’t believe in fairy tales.
So you and some of the others decide to figure out a way to let people know about the light. You remember that acting all crazy and trying to convince people didn’t work. And you know that trying to talk sense into them doesn’t work. So, occasionally, you go back into the forest to offer guidance to those in need…giving them brief glimpses of the other world, that will give them hope and inspiration. And you also decide that maybe you’ll just leave little clues around the forest for others to find. But you make your clues easier than the clues than you had. And soon, there are more and more people who find their way into the light.
And now, the balance is shifting, and the world is changing…and you know that things will never be as bad as they ever were again.
One day, years later, somebody takes you high up into the sky, in a contraption that you had never seen before. For the first time ever, you are able to look down on the world, and see what your world looks like from far above. It looks like a spiral….a spiral of darkness and light.
You remember hearing once that the spiral was the oldest symbol known in the forest, and you wonder… maybe the spiral was left there by another group of people who were trying to tell us something all along, but we never quite understood it… until now…
Whenever you’re ready…just step out of the darkness, and into the light.