… the shock of disorientation – the unknown …

Change is the only reliable constant. I sometimes wished I could pledge my life to a convincing reality. For me, what is derived from facts or beliefs in our culture often lacks a vital ingredient – the acceptance of the continuous process of harmony unfolding from cycles of necessary chaos – so I watch the river flowing and imagine stories and create worlds.

four weeks old

Though my childhood had its trials, I was lucky to be held during my early years, both physically and metaphorically, which gifted me with a sense of basic trust, a right to exist, a right to question, and a playful irreverence. Maybe this is why my little wisdoms play with facts and beliefs, dust the inner mirror, value what is emerging, the ever higher level of coordinates of truth and beauty, like a trajectory of the love I received.

For someone not held at birth, change can be dreaded, or seen as a means of escape from an unsafe environment. What we all have in common, is a longing for sufficient containment, and periods of relaxation.

Some years ago, I walked up the stairs of the Social Services centre where I worked. The building had two sections of offices that mirrored each other in design, with exactly the same stairway on each side. A lift in the middle accesses both sections. Being lazy, I usually took the lift up to the third floor, though I liked to take the stairs down on the far side. On this particular day I wanted exercise, and time to ponder a logistic problem. Steeped in thought, I headed for the staircase in sight. Arriving at my floor, I entered the office with its familiar layout and was hit by a sense of total disorientation. Wrong, all wrong, on my desk sat a row of bright, fluffy soft toys, not the company I had round my computer. In a split-second I noticed other irregularities, the quality of light – a smell of heady perfume. The entire atmosphere in this office was alien, the wrong music – alien to my expectations.


M. C. Escher

First thought – I must have time-jumped, returned from the past – my mother often marvelled at my vivid imagination. More laser-fast thoughts – perceptions are tenuous and dreamlike reality is self-made and its boundaries are fragile. Calling in episodes of lucid dreaming, my fear switched to wonder, until I grasped the situation. With my thoughts dwelling in abstract orbs, I had walked up the wrong set of stair, expecting to see my desk, which was however in the other, mirror-part of the building.

Being sandwiched between two realities, the expected and the unexpected, the cognitive familiar and the unknown, tends to cancel time for an instant, long enough to escape the compulsion of identifying with objects or thoughts. Shocked awake, the mind is free and spacious, a delightful state.


Disorientation, if tolerated, can bring a sudden glimpse of unidentified consciousness in action.

Not discounting trance and meditation, or the vast variety of personal experience – mind and body work in synergy if we loosen up our ideas and learn to relax. In synergy the combined intuitive intelligence of body/brain and the collective mind brings us into resonance with a reality beyond our comprehension – the reflection of a universal order. Not a miracle.

As a child I once dived into a swimming pool. The brilliant sky was of the same blue as the tiles that lined the floor and walls of the pool, which would have been fine had I not opened my eyes under water – the blue world overwhelmed. I lost all sense of direction and panicked. With no way out, I instinctively shut my eyes, which calmed my racing heart and allowed my muscles to relax. My body naturally floated upwards.

I later learned, during experiential Sufi practices, that apt intentional exposure to situations depriving us of habitual coordinates, can prepare us to face change, the unknown, with less stress and more equanimity.

Have you had moments of disorientation – even if it was putting a cup to your lips expecting coffee and tasting tea?

*    *    *

The theme of ‘disorientation’ came up after recent posts by a blogger friend, Joe Linker (see blog roll), on Buckminster Fuller – his thoughts on synergy are powerfully relevant today – http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller

… We are now synergetically forced to conclude that all phenomena are metaphysical; wherefore, as many have long suspected — like it or not — ‘life is but a dream’ …

Buckminster Fuller

So we might as well dance … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXpaI5IMQsg&feature=related



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13 responses to “… the shock of disorientation – the unknown …

  1. I do so love your blogs, Ashen. Always thought provoking, subtle, full of depth. You hold a mirror up to our souls, you know.

    I’ve often felt as if I were living in an Escher drawing. A discombobulated feeling that over the years I have grown accustomed to somehow. Perhaps that comes from the ‘outsider’ perspective.

    Certainly as a young child growing up in an atmosphere of turmoil, I quickly learnt that change can be good or bad, but that everything in life is transitory. THAT in itself can bring a feeling of safety and security – when things are bad, to know that they will pass is very reassuring.

    Another great post and debate. Thank you sweetie! 😀


    • Thank you, Sophie. You’ve done amazing then, giving so much appreciation, as well, which inspires. Outsider perspectives (a state if mind I resonate with) are always interesting, especially with writers, who often see the surreal popping up through the surface of appearances, and can create characters with unique points of views.
      BTW – I’m thrilled to see Darkling Chronicles have hit the road. I ordered, but am still waiting for Waterstones to call me. Must check with them next week.


      • Sophie E Tallis

        Well…you ARE a well of inspiration yourself sweetie, not to mention wisdom as well. I’ll never forget, your wise words were the first I came across when I joined Authonomy.

        Thank you sweetie. Hope it comes in soon. Just did my first Waterstones signing today. Very nervous but it went well and the staff were lovely! 😀 xx


  2. One compound that we lived at in Jeddah had blocks of apartments all identical on the outside, and constucturally the same inside with a choice of four colour schemes, all furnishing and fittings were provided. At times it did become a little odd walking into so many homes just like your own until residents had the opportunity to personalise the spaces. However one evening we went out leaving the house boy cleaning (he came once a week) for reasons never fully explained he decided to move the furniture around. when we opened the door to our apartment it was no longer our apartment. We actually had to go and check the building number on the outside to find our where we were. Although we laughed it was quite disconcerting. Another time I had been home on a particularly hectic trip staying in many different places and homes of friends and family. ON the first night back in Riyadh I woke in the middle of the night with no idea at all where I was. I leapt out of bed and it wasn’t until I had run through to the lounge (and saw the awful paint job on the door) that I could locate myself. It is a very odd sensation.


    • Gosh, yes, your experiences bring home that sensation, like a rug being pulled from under you feet. Noticing the awful paint job brought you back on track 🙂 The little things that serve as orientation markers – reminds me of the visual spatial abilities found in studies of Aboriginal children. Their enhanced observation capacity. As a traditionally mobile culture, it was vital for their survival that markers in the landscapes they travelled through were remembered.
      Story tellers must watch out for markers along the arc of a story. In film making there is usually a continuity person who watches that everything is in place, frame by frame. It’s a subtle balance – to tease the audience with disorientation, but offer just enough containment. Your stories do that.


  3. I can so relate to your disorientation. While most of thing often is the substance of my nightmares, I have had real-life experiences, too. One of the schools in which I’ve worked is split in two with identical areas in each half connected with “The Link”. As a sub, I’ve often ended up in the wrong half in the wrong classroom because I’d forget which half of the school was ‘A’ and which was ‘B’! 🙂


  4. Thanks for the mention, Ashen. I’ve had the water experience. Tossed under surf creates that feeling. There’s something else, too, sort of opposite disorientation – the idea of becoming so used to something, a view, a habit, that we no longer notice it, even if it’s dramatic. What happens when that accepted view is our thinking? Maybe it’s the function of metaphor to keep us disoriented just enough so that we see things from new perspectives. Great baby photo! Joe


  5. You’re so right, most people would agree, some things we miss only when they’re gone. I guess this means we can be assured that when we pop off we’ll be remembered 🙂
    The intuitive perception of metaphor can evoke depth, new associations, and reveal new meaning. It’s what I enjoy in novels.
    Thanks for reminding me of Bucky, I knew of his goedesic domes, but had not really caught on to his ideas on synergy. The Institute is brilliant resource to dip into.
    My baby photo, a great comfort 🙂


  6. Emil Tchorek

    I try to let being a child inform me all the time, perhaps it is all about moving between disorientation/being powerless and orientation/being empowered. Thank you, Ashen, for helping me articulate this.


  7. Kamran

    Dear Ashen,
    So lovely to see you being held as a baby! I now understand and appreciate the deprivation of not being held. I also understand why I used to cradle my children as babies, walking around the house, singing, talking, and sometimes out in the garden, and when at night, they could not settle, would take them out to gaze awhile at the stars.
    Do we not all yearn to be held by the Eternity of the Human Spirit ? And in this ever changing journey through dimensions within dimension, is not Consciousness, the constant, guiding Friend?
    Thank you for your wise & illuminating words.


    • Thanks, Kamran. I can still see you with the girls, in perpetual wonder, holding them safe. To give from our need is a sure way towards synergy, the term that inspired Bucky to say god is not a noun, but a verb.


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