By Austin Szelkowski
From the recollections of Austin Szelkowski
on the day he fell apart . . .
The Story of My Death
The vortex of energy in my chest swelled so powerfully that I could hardly believe Haley could not feel it as she lay next to me in the bed. I writhed in absolute terror, oppressed from every angle. There was no escape from this abyss I’d discovered because there was no escape from myself.
I had manifested and attracted this whole thing, this whole world. All of existence was one thought away from imploding, and deep down, I couldn’t find a single reason why any of it should ultimately matter. If everything and everyone in my reality was simply a product of my own manifestation, then it was inescapable: There was no one else. Everything and everyone I thought were real were nothing more than an elaborate illusion.
I was face to face with the knowledge I’d been hiding from my entire life: I was forever and completely alone. I always had been and always would be. Pitifully, I slid my hands under Haley, who lay next to me in the bed. Maybe just feeling her warmth could somehow convince me that she was real, a real being, who had a heart, mind, and soul of her own. But how could she? If I was manifesting all of this, even she was just a figment of my imagination. Charming, beautiful, and sweet. But an illusion just the same.
I writhed and groaned again, fully feeling the weight of infinite power — the ability to create, destroy, and forget entire worlds.
“Just try to sleep. It’ll be ok. You don’t need to solve all of this tonight.” Haley was rubbing my head and trying to help calm the storm of fear raging there.
“I know… I want to. I-I just don’t know how to… I-I can’t keep this all together… I just can’t. I don’t want it all to be chaos… I need something. I can’t… I just need to sleep.”
In that moment I would have given anything just to know that something, anything, was real and had substance. As I looked into the chaotic abyss within my mind, I finally came to the only possible conclusion: I had to accept it. All of life and existence were illusion. The Daoists and the quantum physicists had hinted at it, but since they themselves were not real, I suppose it was me who knew all along. I was an astronaut of the mind, endlessly floating and lost in a sea of consciousness that simply responded to my own thoughts. Not God, but not quite human either.
With my last defenses finally defeated, the awareness of infinite aloneness and separation finally slipped in, uncontested. It was a true experience of hell. I felt my mind finally collapse under the infinite weight. Everything I had been up until that moment in my life finally died. There was no place to run from myself, and infinity was too big to hold on my own. Time stood still for what might have been thirty seconds or a million years, as I floated through what felt like “the void.”
Then suddenly, I saw the chaotic lines of energy that had come from my broken mind converge to a single point that looked eerily like a journal doodle from two months before. Out from that point, even more suddenly, exploded a colorful array of beautifully arranged energy lines. I stared, stunned, as I realized I was watching what could best be described as a recording of the birth of existence itself.
Then, more conscious and awake than I had ever been, I sat up in the bed next to Haley and blurted a word that felt like it had been implanted into my mind.
“What?” Haley asked, half asleep and confused by my outburst.
“Einstein was right! Holy shit! Einstein was right!” I blurted as I leapt from the bed and ran across the apartment to the kitchen, leaving Haley bewildered. I needed something to write on and something to write with — I didn’t care if it was a marker — and I had to write on the walls! This thought was too important. It could not be lost, or I would be lost. I wasn’t quite sure what it would say, but I knew a deeper truth was about to burst out of me.
Thankfully, saner heads prevailed, preventing me from carving my truth into the walls, and I found a pen and a notepad before beginning to write feverishly. I felt as though the pen was alive and revealing truths hidden since before the dawn of humankind. I stared in awe, hope, and wonder as the pen, in CliffsNotes format, wrote the only thing that could possibly save me from this nightmare.
“There is a deeper truth. Quantum mechanics is not the deepest layer of reality. Einstein was right. God exists. Greater stability after each singularity. Teach this, and you will feel and be whole. There is wholeness and goodness in the world, and impermanence exists only on the fringes. The hero’s journey returns him to solid form.
I am not crazy.”
I went on to fill 19 notepad sheets with explanations of my new awareness of truth. I should mention that I was clearly just writing the CliffNotes, as so much wanted to pour out all at once. In fact, it is still trying to pour out to this very moment.
Einstein was never known to have directly asserted “God exists!” Yet he and I shared an intuition and an awareness of infinite and perfected order. He called it “determinism,” I call it “nonchaos.” I would later learn just how well this infinite order converged, inescapably, into a transcendent and loving being that we humans call “God.”
As I walked back and lay down next to Haley, I was surprised to see just how in order my head suddenly felt. I hadn’t slept in 44.5 hours, and should surely have been on my way to psychosis, but I felt like I had just stepped out of a lifetime of it. I lay in bed and observed how it felt to feel my mind mend itself back together. Without the weight of holding all of existence together, everything seemed to plop so easily back into place as to make the whole ordeal seem like a laughing matter. Yet, everything was different, forever changed.
I remember the tune of “Shine” by Collective Soul running through my head as I physically felt the energies of my thoughts converge into a new and steady whole again. It seemed to be one final wink from the universe, since that song was so connected to the start of this little trip over 40 hours earlier. If your mind has never fallen completely apart, you cannot begin to appreciate the sheer gratitude and beauty of the experience that goes along with it falling back together.
That was it! The whole universe was not falling apart after all, and neither was I. On the contrary, it was all falling together. Forever, wonderfully, and perfectly together. Now, I simply needed to let everyone else know the wonderful news.
Why I Shared This Story with You —
You’re Not Alone in Spiritual Transformation
What you just read is a recounting of the climax of the intense spiritual awakening and spiritual emergency process I experienced in late June of 2014. The entire process lasted for three days and directly coincided with the Summer Solstice. Though the content of my experience is unique to me, I know that many of you have also experienced dramatic spiritual transformations. Some may have lasted only a few days, and some, years. Perhaps you are in the middle of one now?
To some extent, anyone who is struggling to understand and integrate spiritual awareness into a spiritually sleeping world is constantly in spiritual emergency. Our numbers are growing, but we need help. What we need is each other.
Though the term “Spiritual Emergence” was approved for the DSM4 in 1993, modern psychiatric care is just now beginning to wake up to appropriate treatment options for this phenomenon. Even now, most people who visit a psychiatric facility in the Western world are not likely to encounter a practitioner who knows of, understands, or is equipped to care for spiritual emergence. This means that various diagnosis of psychosis, including schizophrenia, are quite often given, and standard treatment usually involves administration of antipsychotic drugs.
The unfortunate outcome of this “one size fits all” approach to care is that many, if not most, people who receive standard psychiatric care for intense symptoms of spiritual emergency are unable to fully integrate the knowledge and experience of the transformation. In a sense, many are left half or fully broken. Drugs and doctors are not the problem. In fact, they often are truly needed. Instead, the lack of support to process and reintegrate the spiritual content is the problem.
Returning to my story for a moment, I consider myself lucky. I intuitively knew exactly who should care for me during my process. I also was fortunate enough to find a wonderful and gracious spiritual advisor and coach following the most intense part of the experience. She helped me to unfold the spiritual content piece by piece. I know many people are not so fortunate. Even in my case, I would spend the next 12 months facing the daunting task of purging and recalibrating every part of my entire life.
My return back into the world after my transformation was a humbling time of many trials. It involved the surrender of my ownership in two companies, as well as shutting down another, because they didn’t resonate with me anymore. Not surprisingly, this resulted in financial hardship and humility. In addition, for 12 months following the awakening, I faced profound inner isolation, deep psychological and spiritual battles, a surrender of my habit of eating meat, and the total release of a former mindset toward human relationships. In short, it was a total reboot of my life. It was only through the grace of divine and earthly support that I made it through.
What We’re Doing to Help
Most spiritual transformational experiences are not as intense as the one I just shared with you. The intensity of my experience was in direct connection to my own shamanic path. Nonetheless, each person experiencing spiritual transformation needs the support and guidance of someone who has been there. People don’t necessarily need all the answers, but instead, a lamp that can light the path of their too often lonely road of emergence. This is the purpose for which I founded the Ann Arbor Spiritual Meditation Meetup.
The group provides spiritual seekers, newbies, and masters alike a place to explore new ideas and energies through guided meditation. More than this, however, it is a place where people can find a sense of home on the often lonely path of spiritual transformation. The deepest truth discovered in my own emergence is also the heart and core of what we are building together: a sense of home — a place where you can know, absolutely, that you truly never are and never will be alone. There is no such thing in all of consciousness as “being alone.”
With over 600 members, we’ve grown a long way from the humble little group of 10 who attended the first meeting in January of 2015. I believe the rapid growth of the group is a testament to the growing need for support systems and community for people on a path of spiritual exploration, whether that path includes emergencies (“peak experiences”) or not.
If you are seeking such a community, if you’re interested in meditation, or if you are simply seeking a place that feels like home, come join us. If your road is dark, we’ll walk with you and teach you how to find the light within.
Austin Szelkowski grew up as an eccentric boy raised by a kind pastor and his wife in the Midwest. As a young man, he went on to reject the norms of society and wandered on his own for years. During this time, he rollerbladed across a continent and built two successful marketing companies. He continued to grow in his distrust of social and spiritual norms until June of 2014, when a mind-bending spiritual awakening rocked his world and birthed a spiritual movement. He now intuitively provides spiritual guidance, meditation training, and energetic healing to many, drawing from an integrated pool of tools spanning four world religions. He encourages each person to courageously transcend dogma and find his or her unique and internal path toward the divine. He also encourages the life-affirming choice to joyfully embody divine energies in the here and now rather than endlessly seeking ascension or the next life.
He leads the Ann Arbor Spiritual Meditation Meetup, which is held every other Monday in the Community Room at Crazy Wisdom, from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. Those interested should join the meetup group at: www.meetup.com/ann-arbor-spiritual-meditation-meetup. No meditative experience is required. His website is: www.mindbodyspiritmastermind.com. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.