New synapses, old synapses

I’ve had a growing feeling all year long that the exercise in social distancing has been some sort of externalised manoeuvre of growing new synapses. The more the old haunts of my daily walks closed off, became inaccessible or had too many people suddenly launched into them, the more I discovered new places, often right beneath the very eyes of where I used to pass by but never noticed the subtle entrance to pathways into enchanted woods that have turned out to be new-favourite walks.

The process has continued, on and on, so that my so-called mundane daily life of several months’ worth of clipped wings now unfolds like the magical map of a newly radiant neurology, for I have seen what I previously didn’t pick-up on, right there in plain sight, which is what growing new synapses, pushing boundaries and learning new tricks is all about in the human consciousness. Its the very path of awakening I have diligently followed these last 15 years and yet, here, I had made it somehow more visible through what, on the surface, looked like months of frustration and mishap and mundane domestic lock-down.

And yet…the biggest growth was yet to come and came out of (paradoxically) the feeling that, just as soon as I was about to be set free, to broaden my horizons once again and stretch out cramped-up wings that have been out of use for so many months, a whole series of circumstances has brought me “snap” back home again, more so than ever. I won’t list all the circumstances; far too personal and unnecessary, but one is that my dog has suddenly become too frail in his back legs to get into my car (and is way too big to be lifted). So, just as my “awareness” neurology had ventured out into some wider new routes in close proximity to my home, now limbered up to grow them even further into places I have spent my at-home year plotting and planning to get to just as soon as I am able to make some lifestyle changes, I am suddenly forced to put all such plans on hold and walk so close to my home that it is like hugging to its sides…not what I wanted or expected.

However, it really wasn’t long until I could sense this was a classic case of you don’t always get what you want…but you get what you need…and this was it. Because in growing new routes away from ourselves, to explore and become wider, more broadly aware, than we were, we are still continuing (in many cases) the foible of our previously tight-locked lives in that we are avoiding the really really obvious and really really really close-up, right under our noses. Yes, the home that is us is the core of all the work we are here to do in this life and yet when we are always so focussed on self-growth that we, as it were, skip the homework, we are always…always…destined to be snapped back to ourselves at some point, to fill in those blanks before we can go any further.

What, after all, is so abhorrent about the Self, our own front doorstep, that we avert our eyes so studiously and would rather be almost anywhere else?

To be fair, I have almost (I said almost…) fallen back in love with my home this year, making it into the cosy nest it should always have been and giving it some (not all) of the attention it should always have had. You realise, I assume, that I speak not only of “my home” but My Home….as in, the inner part of me!

Regarding my bricks-and-mortar home, some of that attention has been a back-handed compliment because the intention and focus has been to “do it up” in order to sell and move elsewhere…as soon as feasibly possible. Yet, here is one of my lessons of recent days: the pulsating question, what is it that I have (still) been so studiously running away from all this time? Don’t I realise that what I have here is going to be, pretty much, what I have anywhere else if I don’t do the deep inner work, because I will simply cart all that very same energy with me to the new place and, before I know it, it will feel just the same. So, any hang-ups, any un addressed issues about “being home”, they will surely come with me too…

So, here I am, snapped back to the closest proximity to home that I’ve ever been in, since I have always had the getaway route of my car for my daily constitutionals…and the first few days were less than ideal; who knew so many odd-balls hung out in the nearby woods (actually, I did sort of guess, which is why I have tended to avoid them). Yet I’ve also gone deep into a state of “being” over doing, so that rather than rush around being discontented because, all the time, I am really plotting to be elsewhere, I have plunged deeply into the Indian summer of my garden, painting and meditating, surrendering to the unknown of an indistinct punchline or prospect up ahead (because my plans have had to become “what plans?”), allowing what is here and now to be enough. Then, and it feels directly related to how much I have surrendered to this, I have discovered new routes on my walks, different ways of walking the same, unexplored vistas, openings to pathways that previously eluded me…yes, even in this less than idyllic semi-urban location and even after almost 20 years here, thinking there were no pleasant surprises left. Indefatigable human spirit, we will always find a way to grow!

So, surely, that puts us back where we were to start with, obsessed with growth? Well no, not really, because when we come all the way back home and do the work we have been evading, the growth spurt that follows is more like a slingshot. It projects us way further than logic could ever have predicted, on pathways of light that impart far deeper understanding than any rationale so obviously grown from “the situation” can ever explain. How can being at home living a fairly tight routine, day after day, lead to such exponential growth? Because consciousness is that all-mysterious thing; never to be tackled the direct or bullyish way but always needing to be allowed to make the next step its own idea. Its as though to even get this close to our Self, we have to pretend we are otherwise distracted and actually leaving for far-flung places, only to suddenly turn around and slip back in the door to catch ourselves in the act of doing what we would be doing if no one was watching…and this is what my last few weeks have felt like. Its why our most powerful epiphanies tend to come to us in the shower or while meditating; so we could kick ourselves at not having some magic, waterproof, etheric keyboard on which we could jot them down word for word (no such luck…this entire blog just came to me in the shower and, I can tell you, the original version was wayyyyyy better). Our consciousness laughs a deep belly laugh every time…but, really, is always here for us, just as soon as we come home with less expectations, except to listen!

For me, that sudden requirement to spend more, not less, time at home (again…and even deeper than ever) has been like slipping back in the door and getting to witness what goes on when no one is at home, because it had looked as though I was already focused elsewhere and, suddenly, I was snapped back around to face my own inner sanctum at a time when it is neither shielded away nor putting on its public face. Like when you forget something and double back home and catch out the kids with their hands in the cookie jar or lounging on the sofa with their shoes on, though (of course) I am talking about my own deepest Self here; there were no cookies but I have noticed other foibles these past days. In that tender observance, getting to see the innermost workings of my psyche and the very root (or should I say route…) of all these urges to be elsewhere or keeping busy, I have projected forwards in leaps. It reminds me of all those posts I wrote a few years ago using the metaphor of capturing a butterfly…run around as you might, you can never really capture that butterfly (or, if you do, it is no longer the same thing you longed so much to possess) but if you remain very still, very aware and totally without expectation, it might deem to settle on you for just a moment or two, from time to time.

Interestingly, that very thing has happened to me a great deal this summer, in my garden…that and birds coming up very, very close…and these things tell me far more about my achievements for the year than any far-flung projects to be very far from home or otherwise ambitious. Those things will come my way, more than ever, I have no doubt…but also more on-target than ever…for having taken this pause to conduct so much inner enquiry and my patience has had the work-out of my life these months (which, never having been my strong suit, is a powerful thing). Human beings have become so over-eager to be back “out there” in the world, seeking the next thrill; when do they ever, by choice, spend time at home in quiet or alone to conduct inner enquiry or get to know themselves as distinct beings? Even those who see the risks of ingrained or sedentary habits and addictions put so much focus on growing new synapses, venturing out of our old ways to develop new ones, but when we come back close to the original bough, first (before we venture out), we are often so much stronger for it in the long run. So we check its sturdiness, which way does it grow, what motivates it in that direction, does it head towards the light or is it simply vying for space and, if so, what can be done about putting it more at ease without so much underlying sense of hard competition or lack (how many of us have that fuelling our every motivation)…and then, from that core bough re-examined and newly familiarised, we grow the new-sturdy neurology to support even more highly evolved and adventurous ways. So, come back to the homework first…which, to one degree or another, so many of us have been forced to do this year…and we grow stronger together, like so many sturdy trees, in whatever new growth spurt manifests as the next iteration of life on earth.

About Helen White

Helen White is a professional artist and published writer with two primary blogs to her name. Her themes pivot around health and wellbeing, expanded consciousness and ways of noticing how life is a constant dance between the deeply subjective and the collective-universal, all of which she explores with a daily hunger to get to know herself better. Her blog Living Whole shines a light on living with high sensitivity, dealing with trauma and healing from chronic health issues. Spinning the Light is an extremely broad-based platform where she elucidates the everyday alchemy of relentless self-exploration. A lifetime of "feeling like an outsider" slowly emerged as neurodivergence (being a Highly Sensitive Person with ADHD, synaesthesia, sensory processing challenges and other defecits overlapping with giftedness). All of these topics are covered in her blogs, written from two distinct vantage points so, if you have enjoyed one of them, you may wish to explore the other for a different, yet entirely complimentary, perspective.
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5 Responses to New synapses, old synapses

  1. I wonder how many of us will have used this time ‘at home’ wisely. And how many will have found it difficult. I went into the dark of the year last year looking to be stripped of diversions and crutches – and ended up with panic attacks for a while in the vacuum. It can be difficult to face ourselves, but hopefully worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen White says:

      Many are struggling still, I gather, and yet, I suspect, small evolutions are occurring for so many of us. Getting past the panic (and I can relate) is a huge milestone, not to be underestimated, because once that has been looked in the eye, I think we start to unlearn old bad habits relating to (as you say) diversions and crutches and then into the void flows…well…we are yet to see what, but its full of new potential, especially with so many of us going through a version of the same thing at the same time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. cathytea says:

    My garden and its birds are bright spots, too!

    Liked by 1 person

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